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February 21, 2018

Empowering rural women, ensuring food security and ending poverty

Women and girls in far-flung villages are very rarely in the spotlight. From 15 – 17 October, UN Women commemorates three key United Nations observances related to women’s role in development—International Day of Rural Women (15 October), World Food Day (16 October) and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October).

Rural women’s rights, food and poverty are issues that are inextricably linked. In 2016, the International Day of Rural Women and World Food Day will focus jointly on the theme “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too”.  

Today, farmers, fishers and pastoralists stand on the frontlines of food insecurity as temperatures rise, weather patterns become less predictable and climate-related disasters become more frequent. As key actors in food systems, as small-scale farmers and those in charge of ensuring adequate nutrition for families, rural women are at the centre of this challenge.

Yet, their voices are muted; their choices restricted. Women farmers control less land than do men—less than 20 percent of landholders are women [1] —and also have limited access to inputs, seeds, credits, climate-smart technologies or finance. Whether they stay back to care for their families and communities when environmental degradation or disasters strike, or migrate to find food, safety and decent work, rural women are exponentially more vulnerable and marginalised.

The 2016 theme for International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, “Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms”, also has special resonance for rural women. The nexus of limited access to resources, inadequate health care and education, systematic discrimination and barriers to their participation exacerbates their poverty.

Empowering rural women is a pre-requisite to fulfilling the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals that aim to end poverty and hunger, achieve food security and empower all women and girls.

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