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IWD 2021 & Protein Deficiency: Women To Save the World

Women are the bedrock of society. They, very literally, feed, clothe and inspire the world. 

It is not far-fetched to see how women are the sinew that holds families and the globe together. 

In many homes, women make the most important buying decisions, particularly as it relates to what to eat. Women ensure that the world is fed. 

At every point in time across the world, regardless of the time of day, a woman is shopping for household supplies of food. Every day they struggle with the choices, labour over the cost and agonize over portions. It is between what is available and affordable, quantity and quality, ease of preparation (read convenience) and value. It is a never-ending struggle.

The Nigeria Protein Deficiency Report 2019 supports this assertion. The report of the survey, which was designed to empirically determine the current status and dimensions of protein deficiency in Nigeria, sheds light on food consumption patterns among Nigerians. According to the report, “51 per cent of respondents do not have adequate protein-rich foods due largely to high cost.” The report also showed that the fundamental factors determining the necessity of meal items consumed across the country are availability (79%) and affordability (68%).

It also reveals something that most Nigerians would probably expect, that carbohydrates are the most consumed food amongst Nigerians. Rice topped the list with 91%, closely followed by ‘swallows’ (such as eba, amala, fufu, pounded yam, etc.) at 83%. 58% of sampled institutional providers (dieticians and nutritionists) insisted that the protein intake of Nigerians is generally quite insufficient.

The challenge is that when people do not get adequate amounts of protein from their diet, it leads to protein deficiency. Protein deficiency is today a major cause of malnutrition, especially among children.

In Nigeria, several reports indicate that protein deficiency poses not only a major health problem but also an economic and social burden. It is the most important risk factor for illness and death, with millions of pregnant women and young children particularly affected.

It is time to go on the offensive in the fight against protein deficiency. It is time to recruit the most important buying decision-maker in the home. To curb the incidences of protein deficiency in Nigeria, women must become more involved in the battle. They already do so much. They are heroes without capes. But women can ensure that the country, nay the world, is fed right.

To involve women to do more, they must be educated and empowered. Women empowerment, undoubtedly, benefits the nation, it leads to an improvement in the nutritional status of families, households and the nation at large. Yes, women empowerment will reduce poverty, enrich and boost the nutritional status and enhance national economic performance. Women empowerment is a win-win in every way.

As domestic implementers in the homes, the choices women make, many times, determine the nutrition status of their families. That choice, however, is premised on several factors, including literacy, income and available food options. This is precisely why women education and empowerment are key and doubly important. 

The best time to start is today. 

Of course, there are also cultural issues. With over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria, it is not surprising that there are as many food cultures. There are places where children can’t eat eggs so as not to become spoilt. In others, women cannot eat gizzards when there is a man present. There are several more just as bad and many others that are worse.  

Invariably, it would require a massive culture shift to eliminate the various cultural practices that lead to malnutrition and protein deficiency in Nigeria.

Massive sensitization at the community level would be a great way to start. This should take into cognizance existing knowledge, attitudes and practices within the communities. It would mean being willing to confront the communities with the realities, dangers and causes of malnutrition. It would involve awareness campaigns focused on the benefits of protein nutrient-rich meals. The Nigeria Protein Deficiency Awareness campaign, aka Protein Challenge, is already working in this space. It seeks to create massive nationwide awareness of Nigeria’s protein deficiency situation to help mitigate occurrences everywhere in the country, with particular emphasis on soy as a cost-effective source of protein.

In the fight against protein deficiency, women are the world’s secret weapon. Women will ensure that protein deficiency is vanquished in Nigeria, one family at a time. 

Women will save the world. 

Every time is a good time to celebrate women. The month of March is particularly important because of the commemoration of International Women’s Day. This is a day set aside specifically to celebrate women. This year especially more so as women again continue to contribute immensely to efforts to save the world.  

The UN Women announced that the theme for International Women’s Day, 2021 (IWD 2021) is 

“Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” The theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women make up at least half the world’s population. Their contribution cannot be understated. Their celebration must be always on. 

Happy International Women’s Day 2021!

Elvis Eromosele, a Corporate Communication professional and public affairs analyst lives in Lagos

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