Gender roles and masculinities in leveraging milk for household nutrition: Evidence from two districts in Rwanda
Malnutrition in children remains a significant public health and development challenge in Rwanda. Animal Source Foods (ASFs) provide an important mechanism for supplying children with energy, proteins, and micro-nutrients. Using evidence from a study on the Girinka dairy program in Rwanda, this article adds a masculinities lens to nutrition strategies. It suggests potential ways to engage men in nutrition interventions whilst promoting gender-equitable masculinities that improve children’s access to ASFs and create more gender-equal relations.
A qualitative study was conducted in 2020 in two districts in Rwanda. The methodology included 8 sex-disaggregated focus group discussions (24 women and 24 men) and 8 key informant interviews (56 respondents total). Discussions explored gender roles and responsibilities in the household regarding the provision of ASFs for nutrition and exploring potential avenues for engaging men in ASFs nutrition initiatives.
The results indicate that norms about ‘appropriate masculine and feminine behaviour’ strongly affect intra-household nutrition. Men are normatively responsible for providing money to purchase food and women to buy and prepare food. However, consumption of ASFs is low. Men do not provide sufficient monies for purchasing ASFs or may sell ASFs they produce rather than allocate them to their families. Women generally feel disempowered through male-dominant decision-making processes. Yet, men who seek to enact more gender-equitable behaviours can be scorned at the community level.
Nevertheless, men respondents are strongly interested in being trained on nutrition through village leadership, and in male spaces. We recommend working with male behavioural change frameworks at multiple levels.