HYDERABAD: Tackling patriarchy and poor nutrition in one go, fathers and husbands in Telangana are entering the kitchen and cooking for their children and pregnant wives. They are doing this as part of the state-wide Anganwadi cooking competitions, held as part of the nationwide Poshan Abhiyaan programme.
So far, at least 5,000 men have participated in nutrition-awareness drives across the state, aiming to challenge the notion that food and nutrition are only a woman’s job.
“Poshan Abhiyaan has five goals, which include tackling anaemia, preventing diarrhoea, and spreading awareness on paushtik aahar (nutritious food), for which we are trying to educate people about healthy eating. This year, we thought of extending the exercise to men,” said Sruthy Apsingiker, technical specialist for communication and behavioural change for Poshan Abhiyaan at the Women Development and Child Welfare Department, Telangana.
Now, from Charminar to Adilabad, men are being motivated to come out and cook at anganwadis, and are being educated on the nutritional value of local food items.
“Of the three lakh people we targeted in our area, there were a few hundred men, but it is a start for us, because food and health are generally a woman’s job,” explained Charminar Project CDPO V Jyothsna.
Officials motivated men to experiment and make delicacies using Balamrutham powder given in Anganwadis.
According to experts working on Poshan Abhiyaan, behavioural changes are needed to eliminate malnutrition and anaemia, the rates of which are disconcertingly high in the state. The prevalence of anaemia in Telangana is 60.7% among children between the ages of 0 and 6, and 56.7% among women and adolescents. Officials are trying to bring these figures down to 51.7% and 47.7% respectively. Among the state’s children, 28.5% are underweight, and officials seek to bring this figure down to 22.5%.
“Anemia among women is the most challenging to tackle because though they are the ones who cook, they very rarely focus on their own nutrition needs. Unless men are involved, women’s health needs won’t be taken seriously,” added Jyothsna. Experts note that activities involving husbands are needed, so they help pregnant women, build the right physical and emotional relationship with their spouses, and help in the psychosocial development of toddlers.