Impact of a Gender and Nutrition Behavior Change Communication amid the COVID-19 Crisis in Myanmar’s Central Dry Zone – Myanmar

ABSTRACT

Social behavior change communication (SBCC) interventions on gender and nutrition are now commonly implemented, but their impact on diet quality and empowerment is rarely rigorously evaluated. We estimate the impact of a nutrition and gender SBCC intervention on dietary diversity and women’s empowerment in Myanmar during a particularly challenging time – the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The intervention was implemented as a cluster randomized controlled trial in 30 villages in the central dry zone of Myanmar. Our analysis uses data from the baseline survey implemented in February 2020 and a telephone survey implemented in February-March 2021 and focuses on women’s dietary diversity and the index sub-indicators. empowerment of women in agriculture at the project level (pro-WEAI). Two indicators of women’s empowerment―contributions to productive decisions and access to and decisions about credit―have improved, indicating that SBCC interventions can contribute to changing gender perceptions and behaviors; however, most empowerment indicators did not change, indicating that most gender norms and beliefs are slow to change. Women’s dietary diversity scores were higher by half a food group out of 10 in the treatment villages. More women in treatment villages consumed nuts, milk, meat or fish, and vitamin A-rich foods daily than in control villages. We show that even in the setting of a pandemic, SBCC intervention can be achieved through a range of tools, including home visits, phone coaching and voice training, that address local resource limitations. and individual.
Gender messages can change some gender perceptions; but it may take longer to change deeply rooted gender norms. Nutrition messaging can help counter the decline in food quality that would be expected from negative shocks to supply chains and incomes.

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