International Day of Rural Women is on October 15.
Date: October 14, 2022
International Day of Rural Women is on October 15. This day is dedicated to the millions of women living in remote, rural places and celebrates the achievements and contributions of these women towards rural development and agriculture.
Direct Link to Full 12-Page Rural Women Strategy Publication: https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/ea2bfcb0-bf49-4520-b08f-6ae8441a5cef/Strategic%20Plan%20Doc%20Rev1.pdf
The Associated Country Women of the World and its 9 million rural women members welcome the Commission’s Priority Theme of “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” We recognise that technological innovation and solutions are critical for achieving global food security and increased empowerment. However, there continue to be fundamental gaps which prevent those who are responsible for global food production from accessing these innovations. In the five years since the empowerment of rural women was the Priority Theme, we have seen the gaps between urban and rural communities grow, women in these communities suffer ever-worsening impacts of climate change, and the devasting reality of vaccine inequality has deepened lines between developed and developing, have and have-not.
Though compounded by COVID-19, food insecurity has long been identified as a critical threat to rural communities, made worse by escalating climate and environmental crisis, interrupted supply chains, conflict, fuel crisis, and the international escalation in the cost of living. In 2020, some 2.37 billion people did not have access to adequate food. This is an increase of almost 20 per cent in just one year, mainly affecting rural women and girls – and the figures in 2022 are likely to be significantly worse.
Rural women play essential roles in global food systems, from raising crops and processing harvests, to distribution and food preparation, nourishing their families and their communities – as well as the wider world. Despite our reliance on rural women, they continue to have less access to food, higher levels of hunger and malnutrition. Discriminatory gender norms and power imbalances often position women as last to eat, and with least. The responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work also rests with women, driving further disparity.
Whilst food, nutrition, climate change, and clean water are certainly not the only issues of concern for women in rural communities, accessing technology and the space, inspiration, and means to innovate are only meaningful if these concerns are addressed and stabilised. Additionally, we recognise that Indigenous women are the custodians of traditional knowledge and are vital for achieving food security and safeguarding our land and water. Inclusion of Indigenous communities in programmes to improve access to technology is crucial, and this must be done with full participation of community leaders.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the urgent need for genuine equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in all their diversity. Vaccine inequality continues to be the greatest barrier to establishing a safe, healthy future for all – which itself is threatened by the drastic, unparalleled, and disproportionate impact of climate change and associated environmental disaster on rural women. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Millennium Development Goals, and the Sustainable Development Goals have all called for action and change, and we cannot wait any longer.
We support the Secretary-General’s conclusion in the Key Proposals from the Common Agenda, in that all States Parties must place women and girls at the centre of their agendas. We agree that “Climate change will be an added stressor that will aggravate women’s vulnerability” and we agree that the damage to homes, livelihoods, and communities caused by climate change mean that women and girls – already left furthest behind – face reducing opportunities to achieve their potential. The greatest barrier standing in the way of progress is governments who choose to ignore the reality of life for women and girls, those same women and girls upon whose labour the success of the nation depends.
In almost every nation, women are subject to intersecting forms of discrimination, violence, and disproportionate poverty. The increase in domestic and gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic shows just how volatile the reality of life is for women around the world. As well as bearing the burden of a vast majority of the world’s unpaid care work and obligations relating to family, women are less secure in their employment, less likely to advance or be paid the same as the men around them, and more likely to be attacked in their homes. Widowhood and any status relating to marriage or men keeps women from full participation and legal protection, and is often a grounds for discrimination and gender-based violence. Food and water insecurity are combined with unstable living conditions in so many parts of the world. These inequalities are well recognised and condemned in developing and less-developed states, but also dominate the lives of women in so-called developed nations too, where stigma and taboo keep women from reporting and being believed.
Rural women in low-income countries account for around 49 per cent of the agricultural labour force, and around 41 per cent in more developed nations. It is in the interests of every government to invest in the empowerment of rural women, and to ensure a human rights framework that provides a basis for education, health, and economic prosperity.
Rural women account for 25 per cent of the world’s population but are often ignored and dismissed by international agreements, processes, and the governments who implement them. We welcome the inclusion of text that highlights the need for geographic location to be considered when assessing women’s human rights, and would draw attention to the reality that those women in communities furthest from administrative centres are often also those furthest from participation in decision-making, particularly in conflicts, post-conflict areas, and all too frequently in humanitarian emergencies. Special attention must be paid to ensure the inclusion of rural women and those forgotten by all but those who would target them for violence.
Continue development of capacities for disaggregated data collection, interpretation and analysis, including creating new qualitative indicators.
Challenge stereotypes, promote sharing of domestic care and work, and make provision for paid maternity leave and publicly funded childcare.
Recognise and support Indigenous women as custodians of traditional knowledge in natural resource management, climate change mitigation, and community resilience. This must include participation in green and blue economy development planning, and legal protections, including full adoption, ratification, and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Urgently make safe water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities universally available, particularly in rural areas. International support must be increased to facilitate local action to achieve this in an environmentally sustainable way. Incentivise environmentally friendly behaviour, but also introduce effective penalties for practices that are proven to harm ecosystems and threaten our collective future.
Engage in social dialogue at the local, national, and regional level to ensure greater representation of rural women; including supporting rural workers’ collectives and cooperatives, and the involvement at all levels of decision making.
Encourage national and local institutions to adopt gender responsive strategies, including addressing gender-balance in staffing, suitable training for staff, and addressing existing imbalances in policy, law, or reality.
Strengthen laws that protect women working in informal sectors. All International Labour Organisation member states should ratify Convention 190 as part of their gender equality efforts.
Recognise Widows in international texts and documents, ensuring their protection in line with other recognised groups, and promote their full participation in decision-making at all levels.
Adopt UN Women’s Feminist Plan for Sustainability and Social Justice, and the strengthened partnership between civil society and governments towards supporting small-scale women farmers and preservation of biodiversity.
The Associated Country Women of the World was founded in 1929 to bring together rural women and their organisations all over the world, and in so doing address the challenges they faced as a result of the isolation of their communities, discrimination against women, and their lack of access to political processes. ACWW’s membership spans 82 countries, and since 1947 we have passed more than 180 policy resolutions by popular vote. The key concept behind each of these is the empowerment of rural women in all their diversity. This continues to be our driving priority. Rural Women are the backbone of families, communities, and nations, but they suffer the worst impacts of climate change and conflict, go unheard in legislation, and remain unprotected and unsupported. Associated Country Women of the World exists to change that. ACWW amplifies the voices of Rural Women, so that the problems they face and the solutions they raise are heard and acknowledged by national and international policy-makers and legislators. Reaffirming the earliest statements from our founders, ACWW calls for co-operation among women’s organisations to ensure action to secure meaningful, quality education for all young people. The advancement of education is a pathway to the relief of poverty and the relief of sickness and preservation of health. Our work is rooted in the fundamental principles of human rights, and we work on behalf of those who experience intersecting injustices and inequality. ACWW stands against discrimination in all its forms, and works towards gender equality, accessibility, global citizenship, solidarity with those facing discrimination, and sustainable development. We will work with peers to redress racial inequalities and leverage our partnerships to ensure positive joint working, promoting, sharing, and learning from best practice wherever possible to encourage greater accountability and advocate for meaningful change. ACWW commits to being an anti-racist organisation, and aims to equip all members to address racism within their own communities and collaborate to ensure that the voices of women of colour and indigenous communities are heard.