1.5 Food and nutrition: cultural and religious taboos
Within all communities there are often stories and a rich heritage of beliefs and customs around the subject of food. Sometimes, however, these cultural features become the cause of problems. Within Ethiopian society some problems have been identified including:
- Pregnancy — women do not receive enough care; the work burden of the mothers is not alleviated.
- Breastfeeding — colostrum discarded; the newborn is forced to swallow butter.
- Infancy/childhood — children eat last; the quality of their food is poor.
- Women — gender bias; women eat last and only have the leftovers.
Can you think of beliefs or customs around food and nutrition in your own community that might cause difficulties for particular groups?
One example is that for some communities it is taboo for the mother to eat meat and eggs while she is pregnant, because it is believed that she will have a big baby which will cause problems during delivery. Another belief is that pregnant mothers should not consume milk because the baby will have a whitish covering over its head when it is born. You may have many other examples, which you can discuss with your Tutor.