College of Health and Human Services
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Gender Inequality and Food Security in Uganda

July 23, 2018

By Jiaxi Zhang

Luganda translator Maureen Ndahura conducts a focus group for the study

Do gender inequalities contribute to food insecurity and a lack of dietary diversity in women of reproductive age in rural Uganda? Four researchers from George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services attempted to answer this research question. 

The results of this mixed methods study were published in December in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition by Master of Science in Nutrition alumna Amialya E. Durairaj, Associate Professor of Nutrition and Food Studies Dr. Constance A. Gewa, Research Faculty and Adjunct Professor of Geography and Geoinformation Science Dr. Maction Komwa, and former GMU faculty Dr. Lisa Pawloski. The work was undertaken as part of Amialya’s thesis research, thanks in part to a research fellowship awarded by the Provost Office.

"We wanted to find out whether ingrained gender norms were influencing the way these women ate and fed their families," said Amialya. "So we decided to employ a mixed methods approach that included both one-on-one interviews and several focus groups."

The researchers partnered with Ugandan-American NGO Bambi Uganda Orphans and a local translator to collect data on 64 participants. 

The quantitative portion of the study found no association between the gender of the head of the household and diet quality. However, the responses from the focus group showed a picture of independent women struggling to make ends meet for their families with limited resources.

"My takeaway from the study was just how independent and resourceful the women we spoke with were. They were really taking on the lion's share of the household responsibilities and doing a tremendous job of putting food on the table," Amialya says. "I am so proud that we were able to tell some of these women's stories of struggle and resilience."

The results of this study were also presented at the Fifth International Conference on Food Studies.

Amialya graduated with her Master of Science in Nutrition in 2015. She spent a few years working in global health and nutrition communications before starting a consulting firm called Little Octopus. Today she enjoys technical and communications materials for maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) and nutrition programs. 

Amialya credits her thesis writing experience with giving her the tools to succeed in her current career. "My professors at GMU helped me to hone my critical thinking and research skills,” she says. “Thanks to this knowledge I now get to work on projects that I find deeply meaningful.”

Researcher Amialya Durairaj ’15 takes a break to chat with study participants

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