Urban Malnutrition: Gender bias important factor girl child's nutrition being neglected

Namrata Devikar
Thursday, 27 July 2017

Mina Shinde, said, "My daughter lives in Kalas with her husband while her in-laws live in the village. After the first daughter was born, her in-laws wished her over the phone only. The girl later started having health issues.

PUNE: Young mothers in the Laxmi Nagar settlement in Pune talk of being looked down upon after the birth of a girl child. They talk of being treated with bias, which hampered their own and the baby's health. This partial treatment continues even as the infant girl grows up. This is how malnutrition finds its roots in gender bias here.

The women here also admitted that they face physical violence and many had to undergo frequent pregnancies until they delivered a boy.

NO JOY FOR GIRL
Mayuri Tambe, a resident of Laxmi Nagar, delivered a baby girl in 2007 at her mother's home. Tambe shared that neither her husband nor her in-laws visited her after the delivery.

Her mother, Mina Shinde, said, "My daughter lives in Kalas with her husband while her in-laws live in the village. After the first daughter was born, her in-laws wished her over the phone only. The girl later started having health issues.

"The doctors said the baby suffered from seizures when she was only a few months old. We shelled out Rs 1.5 lakh for her treatment but my son-in-law and his family did not help us and neither took care of the baby."

BOY'S ARRIVAL
She noted with a sigh that the young girl lost her life before she reached the age of one. "My daughter had her second baby girl in 2008 and then a son in 2010. However, the scene changed after the son was born - her in-laws not only came to visit but also took her to their native place for celebrations," said Shinde.

BACK TO WORK
Many households force new mothers to get back to household chores as soon as they are back from the hospital. The care provided to these women is rare and further discouraged if the first born child is a girl. Overall, it plays deeper impacts on the health of the baby and that of the mother.

Recollecting her first delivery, Kamal Chauhan, now 60 years old, said that no one was pleased to have a baby girl at home.

"I delivered another girl the next year. My in-laws did not treat me very well. I was forced to work after the deliveries due to which I could not take good care of the two girls and both had severely low immunity," she said.

She lost her second daughter when she was seven months old and her first daughter was diagnosed with severe pneumonia, as she had low immunity due to severe malnutrition.

"The medical condition led to stunting of growth of my first daughter," said Chauhan.

NFHS STATS
According to the NFHS-4, 34.4 per cent children under five in Maharashtra are stunted and 25.6 per cent children under five years of age in Maharashtra are wasted (i.e. weight to height ratio is very poor).

Around 22.4 per cent children under five in Pune district are stunted and 23.4 per cent children under five years of age in Pune district are wasted.

Speaking about the overall development of the girls in these communities, Suchitra Mahamane, child counsellor who works in Laxmi Nagar, said that girls have no say at home.

"Unlike boys, the girls do not have behavioural issues because they are trained to follow instructions at home. However, the confidence in these girls is low and they are emotionally hesitant. At schools, we try to let them communicate and share whatever they feel so that their emotional development is not hampered," said Mahamane.

DECLINING SEX RATIO
- Sex ratio of the total population, females per 1,000 males, for India is 991 according to National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-2016. However, NFHS-3 survey done in 2005-2006 states that the female to male ratio was 1,000 back then.
- Sex ratio of the total population for Maharashtra is 952 according to NFHS-4 (2015-2016), which is lower than 972 from NFHS-3 (2005-2006).
- Pune district has 924 females per 1,000 males according to the NFHS-4. The urban setup has 953 girls against 1,000 boys and rural setup has 878 girls against 1,000 boys.

Between the Trump Tower in Kalyani Nagar and the proposed Sangam city near Deccan College what lies is an area of crowded lanes and cramped homes of Laxmi Nagar. The children and women here are severely malnourished. Through this five part series, Sakal Times explores the reasons for malnutrition and how the administration can work for a healthier future.

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