Many studies purport that in low-income countries, women are often responsible for producing, preparing and purchasing food. Consequently, policies related to food and nutrition
overemphasise the role of women, underestimating the potential for cooperation and complementarity between men and women. This focus on women does not account for socially
constructed expectations of women that undermine their decision-making in resource allocation. Using desk reviews, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, our case study
in Malawi sought to understand the complementary role of men in maternal and child nutrition. International agreements and Malawi’s policies were reviewed to understand how
men’s involvement emerged on the nutrition policy agenda. Policymakers, stakeholders and
men and women from rural Central Malawi were interviewed, sharing their experiences of
men’s role in maternal and child health. The study found that men’s involvement in maternal
and child health has been on the development agenda since as early as 1995. Malawi has
made efforts to involve men in these areas through several policy actions and programmes.
Contrary to literature suggesting that women are the main producers, procurers and preparers of food, this study found that men in rural Central Malawi are increasingly becoming
responsible for providing and purchasing food. Men also play a supportive role in food preparation, helping women access diverse diets during and after pregnancy. They also take up
a supportive role in household activities, providing women with assistance in housework
and looking after children. The positive change in men’s roles presents an opportunity for
exploring how men can contribute to food security and nutrition. Opportunities exist for
designing inclusive food and agriculture policies that promote cooperation between men
and women in food and nutrition. These policies can challenge misinterpretations of women’s role in food security and the underlying systems that reinforce gender inequalities.