Co-Creation Front & Center at Women Deliver 2023

In the weeks following Women Deliver 2023, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect upon the conference, its critical emerging themes and its diverse feminist priorities to which attendees and presenters alike contributed and committed. Women Deliver is one of the largest multi-sectoral convenings to advance gender equality, and the 2023 conference sought to enable inclusive and co-created spaces that fostered solidarity for sustainable solutions on gender equality. 

In keeping with this overarching goal, I was delighted to attend a virtual session that embodied the principle of cultivating co-created spaces: Catalyzing Collective Action Through Gender Transformative Nutrition. This event was jointly hosted by the Gender Transformative Framework for Nutrition Coalition (comprised of CARE Canada, World Vision Canada, Save the Children, Action Against Hunger Canada, Nutrition International- NI, HealthBridge and Bruyère Research Institute-BRI), the University of Toronto (thanks to funding from CanWaCH in collaboration with BRI & NI) and the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement

Consistent with participatory action, panelists actively sought to engage the diverse group of attendees (from Canada, Nigeria, Kenya, United States, United Kingdom, Bangladesh and Netherlands) throughout the entire session, with a refreshing rotation of speakers and active audience participation. This event held significance for this particular group, as the framework that underpinned the session, the Gender Transformative Framework for Nutrition – GTFN), was a product of important conversations regarding undernutrition that began at Women Deliver 2019.

The session sought to explore and highlight the potential of the GTFN to tackle gender inequalities and improve nutrition outcomes by analyzing gender power dynamics and engaging in nutrition programs at national, subnational, and community levels. The power dynamics and challenges of the consultative and engagement process when using a co-creation approach was a key point of conversation, specifically in reference to the nutrition-gender programmatic nexus. Experiences from the progress of operationalizing the GTFN and its vision moving forward were also shared, with a focus on how to ensure a meaningful voice and decision-making role of participants and intended end-users from the start of the program and/or policy design and development.

Reflecting upon this exciting session, my top three takeaways are the following:

  1. Collective action is necessary for the promotion of systemic, sustainable solutions for improved nutrition and gender equality.

To effectively engage different voices at the community, subnational and national levels, collective action must be mandated. More specifically, we need collective action that brings voices to the forefront that have not traditionally been given a platform, including women, youth, and adolescents. 

  1. Gender transformative change requires multi-sectoral, multi-dimensional action. 

The core of the GTFN emphasizes the importance of agency, resources, and opportunity structure. While positioning women and girls at the center, we need to address issues of instrumentalization by engaging at household and community levels. We also need to include men and boys as key proponents of gender transformation. At broader societal levels, we cannot discount the importance of working with individuals who have notable influence and potential to assist in changing harmful gender norms, such as religious or traditional leaders. 

  1. Intentionality is required when creating space and reframing who leads.

When considering how we can make room for marginalized voices to be heard and contribute to the development of nutrition programming, policy, implementation, and monitoring, we need to reflect on underlying issues of decision-making power, control, and ownership. There is a need to create safe spaces to obtain contributions from non-traditional voices and we all must contribute to this effort. Those who hold power have a particular responsibility to bring marginalized voices to the table, to actively promote the transformation of underlying norms and perceptions, and to hold the sector accountable to this vital shift.  
Ultimately, this session highlighted the very real and practical need for tools and guidance for practitioners to address how nutrition, sex, gender equality, and empowerment interact to affect diverse communities across societal domains and their impact pathways. It was so encouraging to learn that there is a project team currently addressing this need in a co-created and participatory manner. If you are interested in engaging with this co-created, participatory project, more information can be found here.


August 17, 2023


By Jenna Hickey on behalf of the Gender Transformative Framework for Nutrition Coalition