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Influence of gender roles and rising food prices on poor, pregnant women's eating and food provisioning practices in Dhaka, Bangladesh Open Access


Author or creator
Levay, Adrienne V.
Mumtaz, Zubia
Rashid, Sabina F.
Willows, Noreen
Additional contributors
Maternal Malnutrition
Food Insecurity
Type of item
Journal Article (Published)
Background Maternal malnutrition in Bangladesh is a persistent health issue and is the product of a number of complex factors, including adherence to food 'taboos’ and a patriarchal gender order that limits women’s mobility and decision-making. The recent global food price crisis is also negatively impacting poor pregnant women’s access to food. It is believed that those who are most acutely affected by rising food prices are the urban poor. While there is an abundance of useful quantitative research centered on maternal nutrition and food insecurity measurements in Bangladesh, missing is an understanding of how food insecurity is experienced by people who are most vulnerable, the urban ultra-poor. In particular, little is known of the lived experience of food insecurity among pregnant women in this context. This research investigated these lived experiences by exploring food provisioning strategies of urban, ultra-poor, pregnant women. This knowledge is important as discussions surrounding the creation of new development goals are currently underway. Methods Using a focused-ethnographic approach, household food provisioning experiences were explored. Data from participant observation, a focus group discussion and semi-structured interviews were collected in an urban slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Interviews were undertaken with 28 participants including 12 pregnant women and new mothers, two husbands, nine non-pregnant women, and five health care workers. Results The key findings are: 1) women were aware of the importance of good nutrition and demonstrated accurate, biomedically-based knowledge of healthy eating practices during pregnancy; 2) the normative gender rules that have traditionally constrained women’s access to nutritional resources are relaxing in the urban setting; however 3) women are challenged in accessing adequate quality and quantities of food due to the increase in food prices at the market. Conclusions Rising food prices and resultant food insecurity due to insufficient incomes are negating the recent efforts that have increased women’s knowledge of healthy eating during pregnancy and their gendered empowerment. In order to maintain the gains in nutritional knowledge and women’s increased mobility and decision-making capacity; policy must also consider the global political economy of food in the creation of the new development goals.
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Levay, A. V., Mumtaz, Z., Rashid, S. F., & Willows, N. (2013). Influence of gender roles and rising food prices on poor, pregnant women's eating and food provisioning practices in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Reproductive Health, 10(53), [11 pages].


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Copyright note: � 2013 Levay et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
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