ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Working with Women’s Groups to Improve Nutrition in India

A comprehensive literature review summarises what is known about the implementation and effectiveness of women’s groups in improving nutrition outcomes, and highlights key areas that the next generation of studies could focus on, both from implementation and evaluation standpoints. Women’s groups are undoubtedly widespread; our focus now should be on building robust evidence on how to actualise their substantial potential.

The authors wish to thank Neha Kumar, Audrey Prost and Agnes Quisumbing for useful comments on this article.

The slow improvement in the nutritional status of women and children in India over the past few decades has received considerable nati­onal and global attention. Recently rele­ased data from 22 states and union terri­tories shows alarming increases in some aspects of malnutrition, including child stunting (IIPS/ICF 2020). Efforts to meet sustainable development goals (SDGs) targets by 2030 must focus on identifying and adopting at-scale, targeted, and proven interventions. The problem is, by definition, complex; ­nutritional status is the result of a host of interconnected basic, underlying, and immediate factors (UNICEF 1990). Accordingly, interventions that can
simultaneously target several of these factors could prove more effective (Ruel et al 2013).

In India’s complex policy landscape, women’s groups stand out as one such approach. The landscape of women’s gro­­ups is broad: it encompasses auto­nomous member-based and social solidarity organisations, community mo­bilisation initiatives and microfinance and livelihoods groups such as self-help groups (SHGs). Government program­mes currently support women’s groups in two ways to improve health and nutrition outcomes. The National Health Mission supports women’s groups to ­engage in cycles of participatory learning and ­action to imp­rove maternal and child health, faci­litated by accredited social health activists (ASHAs) (MoHFW 2016). This app­roach has been scaled up in Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, with ongoing inter­ventions in additional states. In a second approach, the ­National Rural Livelihoods Mission has introduced information and education on food, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene into SHG meetings (NRLM 2017). SHGs currently reach over 50 million households (NRLM 2020).

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Updated On : 30th Jan, 2021
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