WHY THE NATIONAL GUIDELINE ON WOMEN & GIRLS’ EMPOWERMENT FOR OPTIMAL NUTRITION?
In pursuit of Nigeria’s commitment to advancing nutrition through a multisectoral approach, several policies, including the National Gender Policy (2021-2026), have been instrumental. However, it is crucial to acknowledge the existing gaps in these policies, particularly in addressing the nutritional needs of non-pregnant, non-lactating women, and adolescent girls. To address this gap, the Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) has taken a proactive role in collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs to develop and adopt a ‘National Guideline on Women and Girls’ Nutrition Empowerment for Optimal Development.’
The initiative to develop this guideline gained momentum under the leadership of the former Minister of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Her Excellency Dame Pauline Tallen. Preliminary meetings with stakeholders at the national level were held to chart the course for the guideline’s development. Subsequently, recognizing the need for a more comprehensive and nationally inclusive approach, a consensus was reached among stakeholders to expand these stakeholder meetings to encompass representatives from all six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. This expansion aims to enrich the document, promote collective ownership, and ensure a nationwide perspective.
DIVERSE PARTICIPATION FOR A HOLISTIC NATIONAL GUIDELINE ON WOMEN & GIRLS’ EMPOWERMENT FOR OPTIMAL NUTRITION :
CS-SUNN convened a one-day extended nutrition stakeholders meeting recently in Abuja, bringing together key representatives from various government ministries, state nutrition officers, and partner organizations. Notable attendees included the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs (FMWA), Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, and the National Youth Leader of Scaling Up Nutrition Movement Nigeria. Additionally, partner organizations such as the National Council for Women Society (NCWS), Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), USAID Advancing Nutrition, Helen Keller International (HKI), Nutrition International (NI), UNICEF, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA), and the Dangote Foundation were present. The primary objective of this meeting was to review the content and structure of the National Guideline on Women and Girls Empowerment for Optimal Nutrition in Nigeria.
Mr. Sunday Okoronkwo, the Executive Secretary of CS-SUNN, underscored the significance of global and national nutrition statistics in his welcoming remarks. He emphasized the direct connection between these statistics and gender equality and expressed confidence in the diverse and experienced participants, all of whom are poised to contribute to the development of the national guideline. He stated the impact of empowering women, highlighting that empowered woman can make informed health decisions and exercise greater autonomy in household matters, including food allocation. According to him ‘Let’s all make this count. When women are empowered, they can make better health decisions, and have greater autonomy in household decisions including food allocation. Empowering a woman has a multiplier effects for the society as these women can contribute her quota to transforming the society. We will develop a holistic impactful guideline that will set our nation on a part to adequate nutrition’, he added.
Representing the Permanent Secretary of FMWA, Deputy Director Child Development Department and Nutrition Focal Officer FMWA, Mrs. Christiana Oliko reaffirmed the ministry’s commitment to actively engaging women and children in all aspects of national life, ensuring their empowerment, protection, and advancement. She lauded CS-SUNN for their unwavering dedication to this cause and encouraged participants to leverage their expertise to produce a national document that will significantly improve nutrition outcomes. She said ‘I commended CS-SUNN and other partners in the nutrition space for their commitment and steadfastness in ensuring that the goal of achieving optimal nutrition for women and girls’ for their self-actualization and effective contribution to nation building is achieved’.
A SNEAK PEEK INTO THE PROPOSED NATIONAL GUIDELINE ON WOMEN & GIRLS’ EMPOWERMENT FOR OPTIMAL NUTRITION:
Presenting the proposed national guideline, the Consultant Prof. Kola Matthew Anigo of the Academic Research Network –SUNN highlighted the roadmap covering contextual overview of women and girls’ nutrition, the rationale for the guideline, key tasks and updated timeline for the consultation assignment. In addition, an updated draft template of the proposed structure of the national guideline for women and girls’ nutrition was presented. The template has six sections covering the Introduction, Key principles that underpin women and girl’s empowerment, issues, challenges and program initiatives, policies and strategic objectives, coordination, partnership, roles and responsibilities and promotion, implementation and monitoring of the use and application of the guidelines.
He said ‘the purpose of this assignment is to come up with Guidelines that will both enable and enhance women and girl’s empowerment for optimal nutrition in Nigeria and to cut across sectors/policies specifically meant for the empowerment needs of women and girls such as would enhance their access to optimal nutrition’ .
NUTRITION STAKEHOLDERS SPEAK ON THE PROPOSED NATIONAL GUIDELINE ON WOMEN & GIRLS’ EMPOWERMENT FOR OPTIMAL NUTRITION:
The Niger State Nutrition Officer Asa’mau Abubakar Mohammed said ‘I must commend CS-SUNN and other supporting partners for bringing us together to fine-tune this document at a time like this. It is important to develop a guideline that will ensure the empowerment of women and girls across the across the nation. It is important to get perspectives from the state level to ensure the document’s nationwide relevance and that is what is happening now so the document can have a more national outlook’.
‘Women are nurturers! It is exciting to see how we have moved from little beginnings to the development of this National Guideline on Women & Girls’ Empowerment for Optimal Nutrition. I encourage all partners to think through on how to mainstream women and girls into their activities, said Toyin Adewale, Senior Technical Advisor, Policy and Advocacy, Alive & Thrive.
In the words Programmes Officer of the NCWS, Mrs Nnenna Emedolibe ‘I applaud all stakeholders working around nutrition especially CS-SUNN. Your dedication to advocating for women’s rights, gender equity and sustainable development serves as an inspiration to us all. This consultative meeting and guideline development signifies a commitment towards holistic approaches that will lay the foundation for building heathier communities where women and girls thrive’.