Empowering women can improve child dietary diversity in Ethiopia

Matern Child Nutr. 2021 Nov 4;e13285. doi: 10.1111/mcn.13285. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Women empowerment is an underlying factor of child feeding and nutrition. However, the lack of standardized measurements has made it difficult to design interventions that embed women empowerment and measure their impacts. This study aimed to assess temporal trends in women empowerment in Ethiopia and evaluate their contribution towards improving dietary diversity in infants and young children. We used women and child data from the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey 2005, 2011, and 2016, yielding a total sample of 6113 mother-child pairs. The survey-based women's empowerment index (SWPER) developed and validated for use in Africa was used to assess three dimensions of women empowerment: (i) social autonomy, (ii) decision making; and (iii) attitude to violence. We used multiple-linear and multivariable logistic regression to assess the associations between SWPER and the number of food groups consumed/and the minimum dietary diversity (MDD). To determine drivers of changes over time, a regression decomposition analysis was run. Women empowerment indices have improved over the 2005-2016 period, but a significant proportion of women had low standardized SWPER scores for autonomy/social independence (47%) and attitude to violence (49%) domains in 2016. SWPER autonomy and SWPER decision-making scores were strongly associated with the odds of meeting MDD. Changes in women empowerment accounted for 17% of the improvements in MDD between 2005 and 2016. SWPER was a stronger predictor of the change in MDD, than known predictors like wealth, child age, and urban residence. As a critical underlying driver of child nutrition, women empowerment should be boldly addressed and integrated in nutrition interventions.

Keywords: complementary feeding; diet quality; dietary diversity; women empowerment.

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