Call-to-action for participants at global nutrition conference

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Joel Spicer, President and CEO of the Micronutrient Initiative (MI), called for more focus on women and girls’ nutrition while speaking to an overflowing room during MI’s symposium at the Micronutrient Forum Global Conference.

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Thank you – and thank you all for this opportunity to dig a little deeper into what is truly a remarkable program. This initiative is ground-breaking – in terms of its scope and the lessons that are emerging.

Listening to the presenters and reviewing the findings that are emerging, I am struck by three main factors that heavily influence our desire to go to scale in nutrition: put communities first; focus on the how; and women and girls hold the key.

  • First, as we’ve seen, putting communities first and being sensitive to local context – are critical switches in the drive to scale. Coming up with a list of “what to do” is challenging and relies on massive amounts of research, and guidelines and policies; but figuring out the “how”– so governments see a clear path to scaling up their investments – is much more challenging; and communities are essential for that.
  • Second, focusing on the how. It’s clear that we need greater investment in the science of delivery, as well as the science of discovery, because without this – scale will remain elusive. As the famous quote goes: “the journey of discovery is not just in seeing new things with the same eyes, but seeing the same things, with new eyes” – so it is with innovation. It’s not necessarily a new device or machine, but rather looking at a challenge and discovering a new way – the ‘how’ – of overcoming it. We have to help decision makers have ‘new eyes’ when it comes to the importance of investing in nutrition, and how to make real progress.
  • Third and FINALLY: focusing on women and girls’ nutrition – adolescent girls in particular – is critical and now is the time.
    We know we won’t be able to end malnutrition and move forward together as a planet – or even come remotely close to achieving the SDGs – if we don’t put women’s and girls’ nutrition much higher on the agenda.

Here’s an example of what MI is trying to do: Earlier this year, in part inspired by and building from the important work we are discussing today, MI launched the Right Start Initiative.

Right Start is a global program aiming to improve nutrition for 100 million women, adolescent girls, and children by 2020 and we’ll be rolling it out this year and next year.

It is grounded in the lessons that initiatives like this one are teaching us – and is our response to the increasing global call to address women’s and girls’ nutrition.

And we know we can’t succeed unless we all come together – just like the partners in this room did – to ensure women’s nutrition is prioritized.

We are witnessing the convergence of two global phenomena that are creating an unprecedented moment in time: heightened awareness of the importance of women and girls’ empowerment for the world to move forward, and unparalleled attention to importance of nutrition globally.

We have to bring these two global conversations together and seize this unique moment to break out of the nutrition echo chamber, to bring additional allies and horsepower on-line, and to accelerate efforts to break the next orbit of what is possible in nutrition.

We need to see focusing on women and girls as a winnable space issue that can help not only broaden and connect the nutrition conversation into the women’s empowerment conversation – but also serve as a real area for progress in breaking the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition as a means to ending it for good.

The participants gathered at the Micronutrient Forum Global Conference are not just a technical force, but aligned and focused on winnable space issues, are also a political force. And by mobilizing this force and directing it properly, we can have a major impact on the lives of the one billion women and girls who still suffer from malnutrition – and on the future of the entire world.

The work of so many at this Conference – the evidence they have gathered, and the pathways to success they have uncovered – are more important than ever, as is all of our ability to get the word out. So please continue to share successes like these, translate this critical research into real action plans for delivery, and advocate for others to build on and expand this work.

For those that want to take action now, I’d encourage you to embrace your inner advocate and join the #womensnutritionnow campaign too.

Let’s make this a reality and let’s talk about it throughout the Conference!

Thank you.