Be it agriculture or households, rural women have been a crucial part in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities. They have been increasingly recognised for improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing. The rural women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labour force, including informal work, and perform the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work with families and households in rural areas.
An international day, known as "International Day of Rural Women" or "Rural Women Day" is dedicated to recognizing the critical role and contribution of rural women, including the indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty, each year on 15 October. The rural women and girls are a key part of the agricultural production, food security and nutrition, land and natural resource management, and building climate resilience. The day was celebrated first on 15 October 2008 and it was established by the General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18th December 2007.
The Struggles of Rural Women and Girls
In every part of the world, rural women despite their contribution suffer disproportionately from multi-dimensional poverty. 1 Billion People across the world continue to live in unacceptable conditions of poverty which is highly concentrated in rural areas. The poverty rates across most regions are higher than those in urban areas. Yet the agricultural production contributes to nearly 80 percent of food in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa to support the 2.5 billion people. The contribution of women farmers may be equally productive and enterprising as their male counterparts, but are less able to access land, credit, agricultural inputs, markets and high-value agri-food chains and obtain lower prices for their crops.
The key struggles of being in rural areas for women are structural barriers and discriminatory social norms that continue to constrain women's decision-making power and political participation in rural households and communities. They lack equal access to the resources and assets, education and healthcare along with infrastructures like water and sanitation, while much of their labour remains visible and unpaid. Besides this, their workload tends to increase due to the out-migration of men.
"Globally, with few exceptions, every gender and development indicators for which data are available reveals that rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women and those they disproportionately experience poverty, exclusion and the effects of climate change." – UN.org
"International Day of Rural Women" Theme 2019
Climate Change is a factor that amplifies the inequalities women face as the impact majorly includes access to productive and natural resources. The climate change differently affects women's and men's assets and well-being in terms of agricultural production, food security, health, water and energy resources, climate-induced migration and conflict, and climate-related natural disasters.
An initiative to recognize the rural women has collaborated with the climate resilience in the 2019 theme of the International Day of Rural Women. The 2019 Theme is "Rural Women and Girls Building Climate Resilience". While every community in the world need to collaborate its efforts towards climate change, this year's theme highlights the role rural women and girls play in building resilience to face the climate crisis. The day will help leverages the momentum garnered by the UN Climate Action Summit held on September 23rd in New York.
According to the UN, across the world, there are one in three women employed in agriculture. They are the ones who collect the biomass fuels, manually process foodstuffs, and pump water. Women collect water for 80% of households which are not piped. They have always been at the forefront of the battle lines when natural resources and agriculture are threatened.
Addressing women's issue of inequality leads to an effective way to achieve progress on the threats posed by climate change. The empowered women have a greater capacity to respond to climate change and they play important roles in adopting low-carbon technologies, spreading knowledge about climate change, and urging action. Hence this year, various organizations and individuals will be contributing towards ensuring an equal opportunity for rural girls and women who are crucial to climate resilience following this year's theme.
Also Read: International Day of Girl Child