Back then, women were mostly reduced to household and motherly duties. They were expected to be married, bear children, serve their husbands, and take care of their household. More so, women experienced inequality and prejudice just because of their gender. In other words, women seemed to be destined to be mere housekeepers instead of the successful individuals they can be.
Thankfully, the tides have changed. Over the years, a lot of women have made names for themselves in their chosen careers. Likewise, the women of today enjoy the privilege of education and being successful in their chosen fields, as well as access to better jobs, legal rights, protection, and other basic needs.
While most countries around the world provide these benefits among women, some countries, especially those within the poverty line, are not as fortunate. If not due to ongoing cultural traditions, it may also be due to the lack of education about their basic nutritional and hygienic needs.
Importance of Nutrition and Hygienic Education Among Women
Women’s needs have evolved and are still evolving over the years, including their nutritional and hygienic needs. However, between men and women, the latter has a higher risk of suffering from malnutrition and the consequences of unhygienic practices.
For one, pregnant women may risk having stillborn children due to lack of nutritious food. These women have little to no money to take care of their health and their unborn child. As a result, they would resort to getting the nutrients they need elsewhere, even if it's not really healthy for consumption. On the contrary, if they are able to get through the entire pregnancy, their newborns may still have risks of suffering from malnutrition.
An article in The Guardian reports that around half of all pregnant women suffer from anemia, and around 120 million women in poor countries are underweight. On the other hand, they also make up the majority of the workforce, especially in poorer countries. Given these statistics, women should be also given priority when it comes to proper nutrition.
Another problem women face is the lack of proper hygiene, especially during their menstrual periods. While richer countries have better access to hygienic items such as sanitary pads and clean water, other countries below the poverty line are not as fortunate.
Water Aid, a UK-based organization, reported that 1 in 3 women around the world doesn’t have access to a clean toilet at home. This means these women often have to endure going to a public toilet to clean up and even risk getting harassed.
These women also compromise their health by using improvised “sanitary pads”, which are mostly unhygienic. In some countries, school girls even have to miss school while on their periods.
The Role of Women in Hygiene and Nutrition Education
One Indian girl named Nikhat Praveen became an advocate of iron-folic-acid supplements (IFAS) in her area. Nikhat was anemic who grew up lacking proper nutrition.
However, it all changed when she began receiving IFAS supplement in her school. Since then, Nikhat's health improved drastically. In the process, she was able to perform better in school. As a way of giving back, Nikhat mentored out-of-school girls within her community and educated them about the benefits of IFAS having better nutrition in their lives.
Gelani, a woman from Ethiopia, is part of a sanitation project as one of those who cleaned public bathrooms, as well as sold toilet-building materials. Her hard work brought extra cash in her household, but she believes it’s more than just the money.
According to Gelani, being able to do her job also means she’s exercising her independence and ability to contribute not only to her household but also to her country.
Another teenage girl, from Pakistan named Kishwar is active in educating other girls in school and her community regarding proper menstrual hygiene. Cultural traditions are still strong in her country, but Kishwar still advocates on practicing proper menstrual hygiene among women in her community.
Investing in Women’s Nutrition and Hygienic Needs
All women around the world deserve to have access to proper nutrition and good hygiene. Some women themselves around the world began their own initiatives to make the world a better place for them. With that said, why don’t we contribute to that change as well?
Taking such big steps is not only about women empowerment. Rather, having access to these needs should be mandatory instead of an option. Women have long fought for these rights. Isn’t it now the right time to provide such empowerment for all women in the world, regardless whether they are rich or poor?
Women are important in our society. In fact, they have proven a lot of times for centuries what they are capable of. With that said, investing in women’s nutrition and hygiene is a major way to give back for their contribution to our society.