Study shows food gender bias with female adolescent’s diet deficient despite households being diet sufficient.

Ms Murro (L), using the 24 hour dietary recall method to document food consumption.

Ms Murro (L), using the 24 hour dietary recall method to document food consumption. Photo: TCI

Initial findings on intra household food and nutritional dynamics revealed that female adolescents were diet deficient despite households being diet sufficient. On the other hand male adolescents were diet sufficient even if the households were diet deficient. This indicates a clear gender bias in terms of allocation of food and consequently nutrition.

Some other major findings of the study are:

  • For an adolescent girl the relative calorie allocation is less by nearly 18%.
  • Gender bias against females was strongest for vitamin A at 89%.
  • Occupation of the male head of the household was more important than age or education in influencing allocation. When the head was involved in non-farm work, there was considerably less bias in food allocation compared to when the head worked on his own farm.
  • Being part of Other Backward Classes (OBC) or Schedule Castes/Schedule Tribes (SC/ST), decreases the adolescents’ food allocation by 50% and 85% respectively, when compared to Forward Caste (FC).
  • There was no evidence for the role of female decision making in intra household allocation – no matter what her education level.
  • Undernourishment was positively linked to biased allocation in the case of vitamin A, calcium, iron and calorie intakes.
  • Both adolescents and the households as whole consumed more diverse diets on market days than normal days.
  • Limited access to certain food groups in the market (meat, eggs, milk) may be impacting household access to certain nutrients.

The 2-week study covered 58 households (21 in Kalman village and 37 in Shirapur village) in Maharashtra, comprising 81 adolescents (10-19 yrs), of which 35 were girls and 46 boys. The villages are part of the Village Dynamics in South Asia project led by ICRISAT.

Ms Archer (L), interacting with vegetable vendors.

Ms Archer (L), interacting with vegetable vendors.  Photo: TCI

Ms Bae (R), collecting the food and nutrition data at the household level.

Ms Bae (R), collecting the food and nutrition data at the household level. Photo: TCI

Ms Archer (L), collecting anthropometry data of adolescents. Photo Credit: TCi interns

Ms Archer (L), collecting anthropometry data of adolescents. Photo: TCI

The study on understanding the existing patterns of intra household allocation of food and nutrition dynamics was conducted by four students from Cornell University as part of their seven-week internship.

The interns interacted with key informants at the village level, on the various government policies and programs on nutrition, their availability and access at the village level. The programs discussed included the Public Distribution System (PDS), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Kishori Shakthi Yojana (KSY) under ICDS and the mid-day meal. One of the key objectives of the KSY is to improve the nutritional and health status of adolescent girls aged 11-18 years.

The four interns from Cornell University are, Ms Cairo Maria Archer, Ms Irene Bae and Ms Rachel Murro, undergraduate students in nutritional sciences, and Ms Dieynab Diatta, a Masters student in economics and management.

This Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI) summer internship research project, supported by TCI, is a collaborative research activity between TCI and the Market, Institutions, Nutrition and Diversity unit, ICRISAT, and structured to provide an opportunity to all interns to conduct field-based research.

Ms Diatta (L), collecting policy information from village officials.

Ms Diatta (L), collecting policy information from village officials. Photo: TCI

Project: Women’s Empowerment in rural south asia: micro-level evidences on labor participation, institutions and food security Investor: Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative (TCi) Partners: TCi and ICRISAT CGIAR Research Program: Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM)

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