BackgroundFood insecurity which is the one of the causes of child malnutrition is still prevalent in Tanzania. One of the causes of food insecurity as it has been reported by other scholars is gender inequality. Women, especially in developing countries have been reported to have very high workload in food production compared to men and in decision making power they are often subordinate to men. Other studies have showed that gender roles are dynamic and they change over time with economic opportunities. In Tanzania, no current studies have looked at how gender division of labour affects food security and child nutrition. However, this is a follow up of a study which was done in the Rukwa Region in Tanzania in 1987/1988. ObjectivesThe aim was to determine gender division of labour in agriculture and decision making power and their impacts on household food security and child nutritionMethodologyA cross-sectional survey was conducted in 152 households in Msanzi village. The father and mother were interviewed separately. One random selected child below five years of age was included for assessment of weight, height and age in order to determine nutritional statusResultsBoth men and women participated in agricultural activities but women worked more days in the field than men. All activities were done by men and women except ploughing which was a man’s work. Women worked very heavily particularly in the work of weeding which is the longest and tiring activity. In addition women worked more in subsistence crops compared to men. Food insecurity prevalence was high. As many as 47.7% reported food insufficiency in the last 12 months. 58.8% did not have maize stock for one month or longer time. Malnutrition rates found were also high, 63.8% stunted, 33.6% underweight and 2.6% wasted. Men’s and women’s workload put together in the field was observed to decrease the number of months without food stock and to increase energy availability per consumption unit though not significantly. Underweight in children was found to be significantly associated with food insecurity. It was also observed to associate with women’s workload. The women who worked with the highest input in the fields were found to more likely to have children being malnourished. Further dry season cultivation was observed to increase the prevalence of underweight in children despite the fact that it was found to significantly increase food security in the household. In decision making, most decisions were made by father and mother together or father alone. Women made seldom decision alone. Comparing our results with the 1987/1988 study, it was obvious that not much has changed in the area. Women still spend more time in the field than men. Food insecurity was at the same high level and the rate of underweight was similar to what was found in the former study. In addition, women still had low decision making power compared to men.
ConclusionWomen are the ones who carry the major tasks of food production. Further in this study it was found that women high work in the field can impact child nutrition. Interventions should be targeted to women as there are observed to be the major producer of food. Intervention should target at empowering them in terms of education/capacity building to reduce gender inequity and also to provide them with nutritional education.