Growth Through Nutrition sponsors local researchers in the field of nutrition through its Small Grants Program. From a group of forty candidates who submitted an array of research topics, a team evaluated and ranked the applications using the learning agenda priority themes criteria. Following a review of their applications and an interview, three finalists were selected to participate in the grant based on the relevance of research question, the feasibility of study given time and financial constraints and qualifications of the research team. Below is an account of Meskerem Jisso, a Small Grant winner who shared her experience as a grantee with us.
An Interview with Meskerem Jisso
Who is Meskerem?
Passionate about public health and women’s health in particular, Meskerem Jisso is a health professional and lecturer at Hawassa University. She has a first degree from Arba Minch University and a Master of Public Health in Reproductive Health from Dilla University. In her diverse career, she has worked as a public health officer, clinical officer and health extension and gender affairs coordinator, and has gained rich experience in both health and gender issues in Southern Ethiopia.
Why the Growth Through Nutrition Small Grant Program?
Through her work, Meskerem observed the huge problems around lack of understanding about female empowerment related to both agriculture and child, adolescent and maternal nutrition. Upon discovering the Growth Through Nutrition Small Grant Program, she was excited to find this interest was closely aligned with the program. She was excited about the prospect of conducting research that would help in addressing challenges around gender roles and women’s empowerment in agriculture and nutrition. She hopes that this research will provide additional evidence for the importance of multi-sectoral approaches to improving the nutritional status of children, adolescents, and mothers, and also help design future interventions around nutrition and gender violence.
She is satisfied with the program, and pleased with the support that she received from her mentors and Tufts which increased her capacity to conduct this research, but adds that for future grants, she would recommend more team opportunities and funding, and support in implementing activities based on research findings.
How to measure Empowerment?
Meskerem’s research, conducted in affiliation with Dilla University is titled “Harnessing Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture to Improve Nutritional Status of Mothers, Children, and Adolescents in Rural Ethiopia”. The study seeks to examine the level of women’s empowerment and the association between the level of empowerment and nutritional status of children, adolescents, and mothers. The study also seeks to explore community awareness around women’s empowerment and associations with malnutrition.
The study uses the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) tool, a standardized and comprehensive index tool for measuring empowerment and inclusion of women in the agricultural sector. By using this tool Meskerem’s team will also investigate the potential effectiveness, efficiency and comparative advantage of using the WEAI tool in guiding the planning, monitoring and evaluation of a multispectral and multi-disciplinary (agriculture, gender, health, and nutrition) projects, and hopefully identify ways to scale up wider use of the tool.
Despite Meskerem’s knowledge of the field and zeal for women’s empowerment – she did face some challenges in carrying out her research, particularly when it came to data collection. One was local access to anthropometric instruments due to their high cost. In addition, security concerns and frequent power outages in the area led to unplanned delays. However, she was able to overcome these challenges and expects to submit the final work this month.
What comes next?
Meskerem is very hopeful about the future. With regards to Growth Through Nutrition, her research will have important implications for the project planning and design, especially for the Gender and Women’s Empowerment and Nutrition and Livelihoods components.
She believes the research will also impact the research community at large, to help strengthen multisectoral programming to address malnutrition, and specifically inform the use of the WEIA tool in the future of planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects.
As for herself, she believes she will continue to have a role to play in making a difference and plans to continue to pursue research and programming in the health, nutrition and gender sectors.
Tufts and Growth through Nutrition look forward to sharing the results of Meskerem and her team’s hard work and important research very soon!