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The achievement of food and nutrition security in South Asia is deeply gendered


Women form an integral part of the agricultural sector, and in much of South Asia women make up a majority of the agricultural workforce and are often compelled to work to meet their families’ basic needs. While their contributions are recognized as central to the food and nutrition security of households and communities, their work is not recognized or supported adequately by public policy and social institutions. Women continue to face inequality across key development indicators including health, education and nutrition; discriminatory laws; and high levels of precarity in terms of income, employment conditions, safety and well-being. Social structures that promote gender inequality and inhibit the agency of women contribute to the South Asian enigma — the persistence of undernutrition despite economic growth — and must be addressed to achieve food and nutrition security.

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This Perspective draws on several years of work in South Asia, particularly India. I thank the many rural women and men who have shared their lives and thoughts with me over the years. Some of these ideas have been refined by my involvement with the DFID-funded Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) consortium (2013–2018) and the BBSRC-funded Transforming India’s Green Revolution towards Sustainable Food Supplies (Tigr2ess: 2018–2021), and I acknowledge their support.

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Correspondence to Nitya Rao.

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Rao, N. The achievement of food and nutrition security in South Asia is deeply gendered. Nat Food 1, 206–209 (2020).

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