Sharing the Load: Promoting Gender Champions for Nutrition in Senegal
Sometimes, the more work you have, the less you get done. For women, heavy workloads can have negative effects on their access to income, food security, and ultimately on their health and the nutritional status of their families. To address this, USAID’s multi-sectoral nutrition project, Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING), is cultivating gender champions in Senegal to promote gender-sensitive best practices for improved nutrition, particularly to gain men's support with household and homestead gardening chores and family nutrition.
The approach starts by identifying men who are well-known in their communities and who are already practicing desired gender-supportive behaviors. These men and their partners are invited to attend a one-day training on the knowledge and tools necessary to become community advocates for gender equality with a particular focus on helping with household chores. For example, men are encouraged to fetch water and prepare planting beds for household gardens — tasks that traditionally have been considered the work of only women. By sharing the burden more evenly, women have more time to breastfeed, prepare healthy meals for their families and rest when pregnant. These gender champion couples become a positive example for the rest of the community and begin the slow process of changing long-standing cultural norms.
One husband recalled, “Some people assumed I was a weak man because I help my wife. But I talk to as many people as I can to raise awareness about why it’s important. This has led to many changes here in Diamwelly and in neighboring villages. Many men help their wives, especially with market gardening activities. They understand the importance of helping like this. If you return this evening for example, you will see a dozen men arriving to assist their wives.”
Listen to more firsthand experiences from men and women in Senegal in SPRING’s gender champion approach video.