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Mozambican Capalana Nutrition

Understanding the nutritional behaviours of adolescent girls in Nampula Province, Mozambique

In the 2013 series, The Lancet, noted that adolescent girls are among the most neglected groups for targeted, effective nutrition programming and research.. Not children and not yet mature women, many adolescent girls are not fully independent and self-sufficient in their decision-making around food consumption. They rely on guidance from peer, familial, and/or community and societal influences to make health-related decisions. More research was needed to understand these sources of influence and how they serve to motivate health-seeking behaviour among this population. While adolescent girls’ nutrition behaviours are poorly understood, there is also a critical gap in knowledge around their preferences, aspirations, motivations, and needs as they relate to food consumption and diet.
Food markets in Mozambique Nutrition

ThinkPlace worked in partnership with GAIN (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition), and with support from UNICEF Mozambique and UNFPA Mozambique to address the current gaps in understanding around what girls are eating and why. Research was aimed at determining existing barriers to improved nutrition amongst girls, and understanding the complex ways that girls’ social networks influence their behavior when it comes to health and food. Research was conducted over the course of ten days, and included focus group discussions, one-on-one interviews, immersive interviews, observation and shadowing of adolescent girls and their influencers in their homes and communities.  

Research revealed valuable insights around existing beliefs and what it means to “eat a healthy diet is.” Immersive research allowed us to experience meals times within families’ homes and observe familial dynamics unfold first hand. We immersed ourselves in school and community markets and discussed food availability and pricing with market stall owners.

We grew to learn that most individuals in Nampula Province lack knowledge of the foundational elements of nutrition and the most effective ways to maintain a nutritionally-diverse diet with the resources that are available. Our team came to understand that adolescent girls have very limited agency and decision-making power when it comes to what they eat while they are at home. Decision-making power lies almost exclusively with their primary influencers, or their guardians.

Adolescent girls’ decision making power increases while they are at or in proximity to their school where they are given the opportunity to make decision free of their influencers and restrictions at home. This suggests exciting opportunities for extension of targeted programming and interventions that have a higher likelihood of success and uptake of young girls in the future. Our findings, will inform nutrition programming targeted at adolescent girls in Mozambique for both GAIN and our UN partner agencies- leading to more targeted, empathetic and human-centred interventions.

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GAIN (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition)

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