The Society for the
Study of Social Issues

Event report: Empowering Rural Women


5 March 2012

The event, High-level round table A on the priority theme “The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development, and current challenges” took place on February 27 at the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters.

The high-level round table, proctored by H.E. Ms. Marjon V. Kamara, Ambassador of Liberia to the United Nations, invited spokespersons from countries around the world to discuss the challenges of empowering rural women. The European countries spoke mainly of equal access, with the Norwegian secretary stating that equal access to resources in agriculture would increase food output by 2.5 to 5%, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), pulling millions out of poverty. Another positive impact of equal access was noted by Luxembourg: a sense of solidarity in rural women. Germany looks to decrease the pay gap between men and women, as it is 10% higher in rural areas than in urban areas, and hopes to do so by addressing gender stereotypes and placing more women in decision-making roles. Germany would like to strengthen the participation of women of all ages in agriculture and business, and Norway is interested in enhancing female participation in the political and economic spheres of their communities. Portugal noted that the percentage of female farmers has increased by almost ten percent, with the presence of females more expressive in family farms. Denmark stated that we must support gender equality “not only because it is the right thing to do, but because we cannot afford not to.”

Several countries pointed out that women tend to be the most reliable clients of microfinance institutions. Because they do not own land, Mexico argued that women do not have access to macrocredit. Mexico believes that rural women lack time, so it is our responsibility to help women deal with household expenditure. Cameroon would like to provide women with financial autonomy, giving them training on macrocredit, access to microcredit and business management, and agricultural technique training. Considering the high percentage of rural women in their labor force, China suggested access to microcredit, with interest subsidized by the government. The representative from Mongolia believes that infrastructure development has improved the status of women. With the installment of electricity in the household, women have gained access to information online and to resources to help them run small businesses. Likewise, an increase in self-employment has promoted household development. Mozambique and Nigeria agree that promoting small business management and technology use among rural women would lead to decreased rural poverty and increased food security.

Some of the spokespersons addressed the issue of reproductive rights. Mexico looks to certify midwives with professional training. Several countries agreed that sexual health and reproductive health are important factors in female lives and in their time management. China has already seen an improvement in the health of rural women, as demonstrated by decreased rates of maternal mortality and neonatal tetanus, as well as increased access to free screenings for cervical cancer and breast cancer. Access to health care and to economic resources for rural women will also allow for improved health and school enrollment for their children. Ghana argued that free maternal health programs, as well access to safe drinking water, are necessary for the empowerment and success of rural women.

Several countries explicitly expressed the need for a global cooperation on the issue of empowerment of rural women. Egypt suggested that we “gather success stories in a booklet for developing countries,” and asked that UN agencies spread these stories. China is “ready to learn” from other countries that have seen success. Ghana noted that urban women and rural women vary in their needs and struggles, while Zimbabwe argued that there are different categories within the rural women demographic, with diverse issues that need to be addressed differently. After listening to many testimonials in the round table discussion, it seems that the next order of business for this committee is to brainstorm on how to move from ad hoc interventions to long-term programs so that rural women can not only achieve but also maintain empowerment and success.

For the full webcast of the event, click here.

Jaclyn Escudero
SPSSI Spring Intern

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