Published: 29th December 2021
Raising marriageable age for women from 18 to 21 can reduce malnutrition among kids, reveals study by VNSGU
252 children were studied by VNSGU research team and the results highlighted that most malnourished mothers were married before they turned 18
A study by Veer Narmad South Gujarat University (VNSGU) scholars found that malnutrition among children would decrease if the age of marriage for women is increased to 21. Young mothers will produce malnourished kids, new research shows. The university's Rural Studies Department has backed the government's recent proposal to increase the age of marriage. 252 children were studied and the research results highlighted that most malnourished mothers were married before they turned 18.
If the government raises the marriageable from 18 to 21 years, the chances of reducing malnutrition are high. Children suffering with malnourishment are the biggest threat to states and the country as a whole. The Food and Nutrition Security Analysis 2019 had put Gujarat along with Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh as states with the highest stunting and underweight categories. The State Government had also mentioned in the Assembly in June 2019 that 1.42 lakh children in Gujarat were underweight, of which 24,101 children were severely underweight.
VNSGU researched the impact of government schemes in the last six years. In Dang, preliminary research was done on 252 children, which showed 56% of mothers of malnourished children were married before the age of 18, and mothers of the remaining 44% became pregnant before the age of 19. It further revealed that 85% of the children weighted less than 2.5 kg at birth.
In Dang, even today, pregnant women are not privy to enough food and there are fewer medical services. Giving more food to pregnant women will lead to the rapid growth of the baby, endangering the life of the mother during delivery — this is the belief that is rampant in the area. Although medical services have improved in Dang, the tradition persists. Vipul Somani, a professor at the Mahatma Gandhi Department of Rural Studies, who heads the entire research team.
He says that the results of the study have shown that raising the age of marriage for women can reduce malnutrition in the country. In areas where women get married early, they also have lower levels of education, resulting in early motherhood and poor child care, which increases the risk of malnutrition and other diseases related to it.
The government has enacted laws for marriage but this responsibility is more social than the government, he says. If it is accepted socially that the age of marriage of women should be increased, then the issue of malnutrition in India can be solved easily, he adds.
Meanwhile, in Vadodara, Minister of State for Women and Child Development Manisha Vakil urged Anganwadi women to help in promoting the importance of breastfeeding week. She said, "The Take Home Ration (THR) is made by Amul, Sumul and Banas Dairy, and consultations are held to make it more nutritious. Other states in the country have also shown interest in replicating the THR model of Gujarat for the prevention of malnutrition," said Vakil.