Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19
UN STATEMENT ON THE YEAR 2020 INTERNATIONAL DAY OF RURAL WOMEN The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Rural Women celebrates and honours the role of rural women on October 15 each year. It recognizes rural women’s importance in enhancing agricultural and rural development worldwide. Many people, government agencies, community groups and non-government associations celebrate the International Day of Rural Women on October 15 every year. Television, radio, online, and print media broadcast or publish special features to promote the day. Panel discussions, research papers, and conferences are also held to review and analyze rural women’s role in society, particularly in areas such as economic improvement and agricultural development.
- Other activities and events held to promote the day include:
- Global exchange programs for women in agriculture.
- The launch of fundraising projects to support rural women.
- Expos and workshops showcasing rural women’s contribution to their societies.
- Strategic meetings to present issues on topics, such as empowering women farmers, to policy makers.
- Some world leaders inspired by this initiative previously proclaimed October 15 as International Rural Women’s Day, drawing special focus on the role of rural women in their countries.
UN STATEMENT ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF RURAL WOMEN — Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19
- Rural women – a quarter of the world’s population – work as farmers, wage earners, and entrepreneurs.
- Less than 20% of landholders worldwide are women. In rural areas, the gender pay gap is as high as 40%.
- Reducing the gap in labour force participation rates between men and women by 25% by the year 2025 could raise global GDP by 3.9%.
- If women in rural areas had the same access to agricultural assets, education, and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased, and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million.
Women and girls are disadvantaged in this pandemic, a problem aggravated in rural areas. Rural women, with a crucial role in agriculture, food security and nutrition, already face struggles in their daily lives. Now, since COVID-19 and their unique health needs in remote areas, they are less likely to have access to quality health services, essential medicines, and vaccines. Restrictive social norms and gender stereotypes can also limit rural women’s ability to access health services. Furthermore, a lot of rural women suffer from isolation, as well as the spread of misinformation, and a lack of access to critical technologies to improve their work and personal life.
Despite all of that, rural women have been at the front lines of responding to the pandemic even as their unpaid care and domestic work increased under lockdowns. We need measures to alleviate the care burden and better redistribute it between women and men, and between families and public/commercial services, especially in the most marginalized remote villages . We need to advocate for sufficient infrastructure and services (water, health, electricity, etc.) to support women’s productive and unpaid care and domestic work, which is exacerbated by the crisis.
The pandemic has also heightened the vulnerability of rural women’s rights to land and resources. Discriminatory gender norms and practices impede womens exercise of land and property rights in most countries and COVID-19 widows risk disinheritance. Women’s land tenure security is also threatened as unemployed migrants return to rural communities, increasing pressure on land and resources and execebating gender gaps in agriculture and food security.
Gender-responsive investments in rural areas have never been more critical. The theme for this International Day of Rural Women is “Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19,” to create awareness of these women’s struggles, their needs, and their critical and key role in our society.
The Invaluable Contribution of Rural Women to Development The crucial role that women and girls play in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing, has been increasingly recognized. Women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labour force, including informal work, and perform the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work within families and households in rural areas. They make significant contributions to agricultural production, food security and nutrition, land and natural resource management, and building climate resilience.
Even so, women and girls in rural areas suffer disproportionately from multi-dimensional poverty. While extreme poverty has declined globally, the world’s 1 billion people, who continue to live in unacceptable conditions of poverty, are heavily concentrated in rural areas. Poverty rates in rural areas across most regions are higher than those in urban areas. Yet smallholder agriculture produces nearly 80% of food in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and supports the livelihoods of some 2.5 billion people. Women farmers may be as productive and enterprising as their male counterparts but are less able to access land, credit, agricultural inputs, markets, and high-value agrifood chains and obtain lower prices for their crops.
Structural barriers and discriminatory social norms continue to constrain women’s decision-making power and political participation in rural households and communities. Women and girls in rural areas lack equal access to productive resources and assets, public services, such as education and health care, and infrastructure, including water and sanitation, while much of their labour remains invisible and unpaid, even as their workloads become increasingly heavy due to the out-migration of men. Globally, with few exceptions, every gender and development indicator for which data are available reveals that rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women and that they disproportionately experience poverty, exclusion, and the effects of climate change.
Empowering Women in the Rural Economy – International Labour Organization Women play important roles in the rural economy as farmers, wage earners and entrepreneurs. They also take responsibility for the well-being of the members of their families, including food provision and care for children and the elderly. Rural women’s unpaid work, particularly in poor households, often includes collecting wood and water. Women from indigenous and grassroots communities are often also custodians of traditional knowledge, which is key for their communities’ livelihoods, resilience and culture. Yet, women in rural areas face constraints in engaging in economic activities because of gender-based discrimination and social norms, disproportionate involvement in unpaid work, and unequal access to education, healthcare, property, and financial and other services. They are also disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of environmental disasters and climate change. Promoting and ensuring gender equality, and empowering rural women through decent work and productive employment, not only contributes to inclusive and sustainable economic growth, but also enhances the effectiveness of poverty reduction and food security initiatives, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. The International Labour Organization (ILO)’s Decent Work Agenda offers an integrated framework for rural women’s empowerment, underpinned by international labour standards, social dialogue and the recognition that rural women play a key role in climate action.
Public Life The International Day of Rural Women is a global observance and is not a public holiday.
Background The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on October 15, 2008. This day recognizes the role of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty. The idea of honoring rural women with a special day was put forward at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995. It was suggested that October 15 be celebrated as “World Rural Women’s Day,” which is the eve of World Food Day to highlight rural women’s role in food production and food security. “World Rural Women’s Day” was previously celebrated across the world for more than a decade before it was officially a UN observance.
The International Day of Rural Women was first celebrated as an official UN observance on October 15, 2008. However, many people around the world celebrated this day in previous years.