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International Day of Rural Women

October 15 is gazetted as International Day of Rural Women throughout the world with this year’s theme being ‘Building Women’s Resilience In The Wake of Covid 19’.

The day is observed annually in an effort to bring attention to the significant contribution women make in the areas of agricultural production, food security and nutrition, land and resource management and building climate resilience.

International Day of Rural Women is aimed at educating the public on issues of concern in not only mobilising political will and resources to address global problems but also in celebrating and reinforcing achievements of humanity.

And while the international days preceded the establishment of the United Nations, the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. The October 15 day of celebration was established by the UN General Assembly back in December 2007 in an effort to recognise the critical role and contribution of rural and indigenous women in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.

Some interesting statistics include:

  • Rural women make up a quarter of the world’s population, work as farmers, are wage earners and entrepreneurs.
  • Less than 20 per cent of landholders worldwide are women. In rural areas, the gender pay gap is as high as 40 per cent.
  • Reducing the gap in labour force participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent by the year 2025 could raise global GDP by 3.9 per cent.
  • If women in agricultural areas had the same access to agricultural assets, education and markets as men, then agricultural production could be increased, and the number of hungry people worldwide reduced by 100-150 million.

The Covid 19 pandemic has really magnified the global gender inequality. Due to working in the most hard hit economic sectors, women have lost most in the areas of employment and livelihoods. The UN estimates that 47 million women and girls will be pushed into poverty as a result of Covid 19. Worldwide, women manage most of the extra unpaid care work and thus, growing food insecurity and prevalence of lockdowns have led to increasing gender-based violence, including both domestic and sexual violence.

Women’s rights to land are foundational to ensuring all other human rights including food, housing, work and education. In some countries, lockdown policies and impeded government legislation have made it difficult, if not impossible, for women to farm. Supporting rural women’s land rights is vital for empowering the resilience of women in the aftermath of Covid 19.

Around the world, October 15 is celebrated in various ways in remembering the rural women throughout the nations, many of whom live in poverty and eking out a living from the soil.

By Vinnie Todd