In spite of a thriving economy, the malnutrition, low birthweight and maternal mortality rates in India rivals those of sub-Saharan Africa.
Which is not only tragic for those children and their families but for all of the people of India, as these underweight and malnourished children suffer from poor health and reduced mental capacity which results in problems that are estimated to cost the Indian government c. $28bn a year. (1)
So, why are the children in this growing economy continuing to suffer so badly?
It seems the main reason is the fact that women in India have a lower status than men and as a result don’t have enough power to see that their children’s needs are met. (2)
A study in Nepal found that children are less likely to be underweight if their mothers own land. (3)
Another study in Nicaragua and Honduras demonstrated that families spend more money on food when the woman owns land.
In Ghana a study found that families allocate more of their household budget to food when women own a share of the family farmland. (4)
All around the world when women are educated and have secure rights, their families have better education, better nutrition and better health.
I know it is probably not news to you all that everybody in a society does better when women are treated equally. And I know I keep saying this same thing in different ways (sorry for the repetition) but I have now decided to say one thing I’ve never said before – where are the men in this?
Surely these children all have fathers? Even if they don’t respect their wives as much as they should – why don’t they feel they have to care for their children? Why don’t the women in their societies hold them to this sacred duty? Why are these adult men not ashamed when they put their wants before their children’s needs?
I have a father, husband, three sons, two brothers and many male friends. I love and admire all of them and those amongst them who have children are honourable and dedicated fathers. How are they so different to other men in the world?
Is it because they live in a society where women have (more or less) equal status? Where women have rights? Where women are educated? If so, what factors in this have allowed some men (like the men in my life) to develop greater courage, selflessness and care than their counterparts in other parts of the world?
I’m not suggesting that all the men in western societies care for their children but many of them certainly do – many more than in other cultures.
My question is – why?
- 42 percent of Indian children under 5 malnourished (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Malnourished children (thehindu.com)
- Every 3rd malnourished child is an Indian: report (ibnlive.in.com)
- India’s (Our) Malnourished Children (donsweblog.wordpress.com)
- Study: 42 per cent of Indian kids under 5 malnourished (ctv.ca)
- India’s ‘shame’: 4 in 10 kids malnourished (msnbc.msn.com)
- Legislators walk the talk (thehindu.com)