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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Gender inequalities while rearing of children under 5 years in a rural area of West Bengal

Author(s): Pal I, Chaudhuri RN

Vol. 32, No. 3 (2007-07 - 2007-09)

SHORT ARTICLE

Year : 2007 | Volume : 32 | Issue : 3 | Page : 215-216

Gender inequalities while rearing of children under 5 years in a rural area of West Bengal

Pal I, Chaudhuri RN
29 - A, Kali Kumar Banerjee Lane, Kolkata - 700002, West Bengal, India
Date of Submission 25-Jan-2006
Date of Acceptance 02-Jan-2007

Correspondence Address:
Pal I
29 A, Kali Kumar Banerjee Lane, Kolkatta - 700 002, West Bengal
India

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
How to cite this article:
Pal I, Chaudhuri RN. Gender inequalities while rearing of children under 5 years in a rural area of West Bengal. Indian J Community Med 2007;32:215-6
How to cite this URL:
Pal I, Chaudhuri RN. Gender inequalities while rearing of children under 5 years in a rural area of West Bengal. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2007 [cited 2007 Nov 30];32:215-6. Available from: http://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2007/32/3/215/36834

Girls of today are the women of tomorrow. Mounting evidence of the special needs of girl children is increasingly attracting attention worldwide. Exploring the problems of the girl child in the South-east Asia region (SEAR) countries has raised several important issues.[1] The health problems currently affecting the girls arise from a complex combination of factors. In most societies, girls face discrimination due to their under valuation, and this is further aggravated by other economic and social problems, leading to their poor health status. The targeted interventions for child survival programs have benefited mostly by the male children, where as, the female children continue to decrease due to a high mortality rate and ambient health-seeking behavior of parents and families. Disparity between boys and girls is either a choice of a family or a community. It is at this level that gender equity must be sought and campaigned for.[2] Discrimination against women begins even before birth and must therefore be addressed from birth and then onwards. Therefore, this study was undertaken to determine the differences, if any, in rearing of under-5 years of male and female children.

Materials and Methods

This study is a community-based cross-sectional, observational study carried out from June 2003 to May 2004. The study was conducted in the Mollasimla village of Hooghly district, the rural field practice area of All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Kolkatta.

All children in the group of 0-59 months of age were included as study subjects. The mothers represented their children as the respondents. It was ensured that the families of the children involved in the study were not frequent migrants and were permanent residents of the study area. On calculating the total number the eligible children under 5 years of age in the village of Mollasimla, 116 males and 111 females were registered for the study. The health workers of the village were described the purpose of the study and were asked to inform the mothers. Consent was obtained from all mothers, and they were asked to co-operate. A pre-designed and pre-tested, semi-structured interview pro-forma was used to collect the data.

Results

Among the study population, the distribution of male and female children in different age groups was almost similar. Of all students, 63.4% were Muslims and the rest were Hindus. Of all, 55% of the children were from nuclear families. Agriculture was the commonest occupation among the fathers, and all the mothers were housewives.

[Table - 1] shows that breast feeding was initiated for 26.7% of the males within one hour of their birth compared to 18% of the newborn female. Prelacteal feeds like honey, candy water etc., were fed to 43.9% of the males and 50.5% of the females. Colostrum was fed within 3 days. Although, majority of the children (82%) were fed colostrum a higher proportion of females (21.6%) were not fed colostrums when compared to the males (14.7%). There was a negligible difference in the proportion of males and females with regard to breast feeding during the first six months of life. Predominant breast feeding had been practiced in most of the children. Commonly given feed along with breast milk was tinned milk and cow's milk. During the study, it was observed that among children aged 0-11 months and 12-23 months, a higher proportion of males were breast fed than the females. Majority of the children were introduced to complementary feeding between 6-11 months and a higher percentage of males were fed timely. The foods used for complementary feeding were smashed rice and potatoes, khichuri , and suji .

Of all children belonging to the age group of 12-23 months, 49 children were immunized. The immunization cards were presented in the case of in 91.8% of these children. Of all children, 91.8% was given the BCG vaccination, while 83.7% was given DPT and OPV. Vaccination against measles and Vitamin A was provided to 79.6% of the children. Primary immunization was completed in almost equal proportion for male and female children (80% in males and 79.2% in females). In order to determine the aspiration of a mother to raise a child, the child's visit to the ICDS centre and their desire to send their children to school were considered. The study revealed that 22.4% of males and 18.9% of females attended the ICDS centre regularly (more than 15 days per month). A higher percentage of the girls when compared to the boys never attended the ICDS center [Table - 2].

Mothers of 59.5% of male children wanted to send their child to school before their sixth birthday, whereas mothers of only 35.1% of females wanted the same. Mothers of 55.8% of the female children wanted to send their daughters to school at a higher age [Table - 2].

Discussion

Delayed initiation of breast-feeding was noticed in most of the cases, which was due to the lack of proper knowledge imparted to the mothers and other family members and the lack of guidance from health personnel. National Family Health Survey (NFHS) II conducted in India also showed that very few children were breast fed immediately after birth. Only 16% of children in India and 25% of children in West Bengal began breast feeding within one hour of birth.[1] Although, the study population of the present study was from a rural area, exclusive breast feeding was not very common. Predominant breast feeding was a common practice in both the genders. Breast feeding was mostly influenced by the advice of elder family members. During the study, it was observed that a higher percentage of males were continued with breast feeding compared to the females in the age of group of 0-11 months and 12-23 months.

NFHS II also reported that the median duration of breast feeding was two months shorter for girls than for boys.[3] These studies suggested that this pattern was observed in societies where there was a strong preference for sons, since the mother may stop breast feeding a girl at a younger age to increase the chances of having another child earlier with the hope that the next child will be a boy. Among the study population, females were weaned in higher proportions at an early age of less than 6 months or at an age of 12 months and above. Sabir NI, Ibrahim GJ noticed that in Lahore, twice as many girls as boys were introduced to solid foods before 6 months of age.[4]

With regard to attendance of eligible children at the ICDS center, a higher percentage of males attended the center regularly. It seems that the location and distance of the ICDS center from the child's house was an important determinant of attendance.

The willingness of the mother to send the child to school at an early age indicated her interest in educating and raising the child and also provided an indication of the preference of the child. It was found that mothers of 59.5% of the male children wanted to send their child to school at less than 6 years, while mothers of only 35.1% females felt the same way. Of all, 7.5% mothers did not respond to this question. Bhogle S, in her study on children in the age group of 3-6 years in Hyderabad, noticed that the attitude of the mother was more favorable toward the sons rather than daughters while considering their age to send the children to school.[5]

Therefore, efforts should be taken to have IEC activities targeted toward educating mothers, particularly in the rural areas. Mothers must have the right kind of information on health and nutrition of the girl child. Social support measures have to be introduced to encourage the education of girls. Mothers should be informed about the need of educating a girl child.

References

1. The girl child. Focus on women. Regional Health Report. WHO (SEAR) 1998. p. 9.
2. Lal S, Vashisht BM, Punia MS. Down with low child sex ratio. Indian J Commun Med 2002;27:3-8.
3. International Institute of Population Sciences. National Family Health Survey 2, 1998-99. Mumbai; 1999. p. 251-63.
4. Sabir NI, Ibrahim GJ. Are daughters more at risk than sons in some societies. J Trop Pediatr 1984;30:237-9.
5. Bhogle S. Child rearing practices and behaviour development of a girl child. Indian J Soc Work 1991;52:61-9.

Tables

For larger view, pleae click on image

Table 1: Feeding practices of male and female children under 5 years of age

Table 1: Feeding practices of male and female children under 5 years of age

Table 2: Mothers’ aspiration toward their for child’s development

Table 2: Mothers’ aspiration toward their for child’s development

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