One billion women and girls suffer from malnutrition. This number is hard to fathom, but to give you some perspective, it’s close to 28 times more than the population of Canada. It’s also 15 percent of the global population. That in 2018, so many women and girls cannot access nutrition essential to their wellbeing should shock anyone.
Malnutrition is one of the main roadblocks to women and girls’ empowerment. Malnutrition holds women and girls back because it cripples their ability to grow, learn and enjoy an active and productive life. In developing countries, it also prevents women and girls from taking advantage of the programs and initiatives designed to help pull them out of poverty.
A girl who is malnourished will struggle to perform at school. A girl who is malnourished will see her health waver and falter throughout her life, limiting her ability to build momentum for herself, hindering her ability to participate in economic activities, and preventing her from achieving her goals. As a result, malnutrition among women and girls leads to economic losses further propelling families, communities, and countries in a cycle of generational poverty.
Despite this reality, less than one percent of development investment goes toward improving nutrition.
The malnutrition crisis has been starving for attention. We are all responsible for getting malnutrition, recognized as a priority for the world’s leaders, especially as both a cause and consequence of inequality. One of our greatest challenges in this pursuit has been to present the issue and information in a way that not only resonates with people, but propels them to take action. For example, demonstrating that every dollar spent on scaling-up nutrition interventions for pregnant women and children yields $16 in returns – a financially sound investment resulting in a ripple effect of benefits.
Having a billion women and girls suffer from malnutrition is a true tragedy, on an almost incomprehensible scale. But for meaningful and sustainable progress on women’s and girls’ empowerment, we need to tackle this crisis head-on. For that to happen, the world needs to invest a lot more in nutrition.
So how do you reach people’s heads and hearts, and persuade them that increasing investment in nutrition, especially for women and girls, is critical?
A campaign to shift perspectives and trigger action
In 2017, Nutrition International decided there was a critical need to shift the perspective about nutrition and its impact on women and girls.
Through the She’ll Grow Into It campaign the world can clearly see what a future without malnutrition could look like for little girls with big dreams. Essentially, it is to say that with good nutrition, a girl’s future won’t just be something she dreams about, but something she can actually grow into.
We know that good health and nutrition are the foundation to economic empowerment and equality. We know that a girl who is better nourished is more likely to be healthier, and therefore in a better position to take control of her own life and inspire others to do the same. She can take advantage of every opportunity presented to her, become the person she wants to be, and play the role she wants to play in her community.
For us, the connection between better nutrition, better health and a better future full of economic opportunities is obvious. It is what science tells us, it is what experience shows us, and it is what we want everyone to know.
But it doesn’t stop here.
The future we see and we want the world to see for women and girls is not only one that is free from malnutrition, but one that is powerful, progressive and limitless. Well-nourished and healthier, a girl can imagine a different future for herself; a future where she can become a doctor, a pilot, an engineer, or an athlete. The She’ll Grow Into It campaign promotes the possibilities we hope to see for a girls’ future and that these can be ambitious and do not have to conform to traditional gender norms or roles.
A powerful community to turn dreams into reality
In 2018, Nutrition International has big dreams for women and girls. First, to tackle malnutrition to bring a billion more women and girls into the circle of prosperity – unlocking their potential to contribute to the economy and drive better outcomes for their families. Second, we aim to help create a world that is more open – that can welcome women and girls into new roles and that will support their journey, whatever their goals may be.
Yet our voice and commitment alone is not enough. We need partners working across sectors to call for more action and investment in nutrition; we need a collective commitment from the larger community to work together to build momentum around malnutrition to solve this issue once and for all.