Meet the women of the CSN: Beatrice Eluaka

Women's Nutrition, West and Central Africa

Coordinator of CSS+UNN, Nigeria

My work in nutrition

I am Lead for the Scaling Up Nutrition’s programming in Nigeria. I perform Country Office Oversight, Country Program Development, Country project /program implementation and Country Program Representation whilst contributing to strategic and operational development and delivery of programs in line with the SUN CSN mandate, strategy and theory of change including advocacy for Nutrition at all levels in all key relevant sectors in Nigeria.

My love for food and cooking is inspired by my mother who was a caterer, and my experience during the Nigerian civil war seeing children with “kwashiorkor1” and “marasmus2” got me interested in studying food and nutrition. I am a Nutritionist with vast expertise in policy and programme design, implementation, monitoring and supervision including capacity building for nutrition and related health issues such as maternal, infant and young child nutrition, prevention of non-communicable diseases, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, promotion of key household practices and gender mainstreaming. As a Master trainer on Baby Friendly Initiative, Infant and Young Child Feeding Counseling, I am passionate about training of community health workers and setting up and mentoring community support groups for improving the nutritional status and quality of life of women and children in Nigeria.

Adequate nutrition, a fundamental cornerstone of any individual’s health, is especially critical for women because inadequate nutrition wreaks havoc not only on women’s own health but also on the health of their children. Children of malnourished women are more likely to face cognitive impairments, become stunted, have lower resistance to infections, and a higher risk of disease and death throughout their lives. Optimal nutrition for women has a range of positive effects because healthy women can generate income, ensure their families’ nutrition, and have healthy children — more effectively and thereby help advance countries’ socioeconomic development. Women are often responsible for producing and preparing food for the household, so their knowledge — or lack thereof — about nutrition can affect the health and nutritional status of the entire family.

The role of women

Being a woman has not negatively affected my career because I have been able to cope effectively with my role as a wife and mother and that of a career woman. This was of course with genuine support of my family who readily filled the gaps often created by the my many job demands. As a woman, one needed to put in a lot more effort to excel and to prove right the saying that “what a man can do, a woman can do, even better.”

The following can be done to elevate women in leadership:

1) Ensuring that the voices of women are heard. How? Through Speaking UP, Speaking OUT and contributing to discussions.

2)  Creating a community of mentors, role-models and networking groups who provide a support system to help women navigate through their organization and workplaces.

3) Thoughtful attention should be given to creating gender-neutral environment and workplaces- flexible work arrangements.

4) It is important to expose the girl-child to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education early.

5) It is important to eliminate negative cultural, structural, organizational practices and other barriers which prevent girls and women from thriving and attaining great heights and goals.