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Insights into Editorial: Agents of change: On investing in women’s education

Insights into Editorial: Agents of change: On investing in women’s education


Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. The term malnutrition covers two broad groups of conditions:

Undernutrition:  It includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals).

Obesity:  It includes overweight and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer).

A global hunger tracking report released has ranked India with the world’s highest rates of child wasting, or children with too low a weight for height, among 117 countries assessed.

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2019 a peer-reviewed report published by Concern Worldwide, Ireland’s largest humanitarian aid agency, and Welthungerhilfe, a German non-government aid agency has said India’s child wasting figure is 20.8 per cent, the highest among the countries assessed. It has placed India’s child stunting rate at 37.9 per cent.


Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey:

The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey, which studied 1.2 lakh children between 2016-18, measured diet diversity, meal frequency and minimum acceptable diet as the three core indicators of nutritional deficiency among infants and young children.

The survey recorded not only micronutrient deficiencies but also details of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and kidney function in children and adolescents.

The findings of survey are nearly 10% of children in the age group of 5-9 years and adolescents in the age group of 10-19 years are pre-diabetic.

Also, 5% are overweight and another 5% suffer from blood pressure in the age groups mentioned above.

The first-time hard evidence of the coexistence of obesity and undernutrition, among school-going children has been recorded.

Every second woman in India is anaemic, with anaemia most prevalent in children under five (40.5%).



Mother’s Education and their Children Nutritional Status:

There is a direct correlation between the nutritional status of children and their mothers’ education is a further stroke for the case of women’s education.

It demonstrated that with higher levels of schooling for a mother, her children received better diets.

The recently released Health Ministry survey that showed a direct correlation between the nutritional status of children and their mothers’ education is a further stroke for the case of women’s education.

Development economists have long studied the role that education of girls plays in enabling them to emerge as agents of change.

Empirical work in recent years, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen reasons, has clearly shown how the relative aspect and regard for women’s wellbeing is strongly influenced by women’s literacy and educated participation in decisions within and outside the family.

On two counts, meal diversity and minimum acceptable diet, and in terms of bolstering food with micro nutrients, the children of mothers with better education did well.

The data is revelatory: Only 11.4% of children of mothers with no schooling received adequately diverse meals, while 31.8% whose mothers finished Class XII received diverse meals.

While 9.6% of children whose mothers had finished schooling got minimum acceptable diets, only 3.9% of children whose mothers had zero schooling got such a diet.


Case Study: Mass Rural Literacy project in Dharmapuri:

In the late 1990s, Tamil Nadu along with the Danish International Development Agency, launched a mass rural literacy project in Dharmapuri, then considered backward, riding largely on local leaders, most of them women.

Evaluation showed overall salubrious effects on the community within a short while.

Implemented largely through the employ of the local arts, one measure of success, as recorded then, was an increased outpatient attendance in primary health centres.

There is a body of compelling evidence for the government to focus on improving female literacy.

In Census 2011, the female literacy rate was 65.46%, much lower than for males, at 82.14%.

States such as Kerala with a high literacy rate (male and female) also sit at the top of the table on development indicators.


Increase Income+ Increase Awareness= Eliminate Malnutrition:

A cereal-based diet does not meet the caloric composition of a healthy diet.

Intake of protein-based calories is negligible, and its intake share remains unchanged in the last two decades.

Increasing income shows correspondingly high increments in fat intake but not protein intake.

Intake of eggs and other protein sources is low across income groups

Access to diverse, micronutrient rich foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, pulses and nuts has not improved equally for everyone.

When healthy options are available and these are affordable and desirable, then children and families make better food choices.

Children’s nutrition will improve significantly if there is an increase in the production and processing of healthy foods to deliver nutritious, safe, affordable and sustainable diets for all children.



Educating a woman serves a larger ameliorative purpose.

As former American First Lady Michelle Obama said, “Because we know that when girls are educated, their countries become stronger and more prosperous.”

No other task can assume greater urgency for a nation striving to improve its performance on all fronts.