RAWALPINDI, Oct 14: The first ‘International Day of Rural Women’ is being observed on Wednesday to highlight the critical role and contribution of rural women in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.
The day is aimed at directing attention to both the contribution that women make in rural areas, and the many challenges they face. The women play a critical role in the rural economies of both developed and developing countries.
Rural women are particularly vulnerable to poverty. According to the World Bank, 75 per cent of the poor in developing countries live in rural areas. The weight of poverty falls most heavily on women in rural areas who have a very low level of education and are subject to a multitude of cultural and other social constraints. A comparison of male and female human poverty index indicates that women in Pakistan have always been poorer, less healthy and less educated than men.
In Pakistan, 44.8 per cent of the total labour force is engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing. Women workers are 69.9 per cent in comparison to 38.4 per cent men but less than 2 per cent women own land. According to International Law women enjoy equal rights to land and housing, but this has not been put into action by governments.
Women make an important contribution to food production. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 428 million women work in the agricultural sector around the world, compared to 608 million men. In many parts of the world, agriculture is the first sector of employment for women.
According to estimates of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), two thirds of the female labour force in developing economies is engaged in agricultural activities.
ActionAID Pakistan, in collaboration with its partners, alliances of farmers and landless peasants rights, networks on food rights, land rights movement and women’s organizations is launching ‘HungerFree Women Campaign’ on ‘Day of Rural Women’. Across Pakistan, thousands of women will participate in campaign to demand women’s right to land and end to food crisis.
Rural women are also disadvantaged in their access to health. In every region of the world, the presence of skilled birth attendants in rural areas is lower than urban areas. Their access to credit is also limited because land is the major asset used as collateral to obtain loans. While limited access to land and credit affects rural women as a whole, some groups are particularly vulnerable and marginalized.
Another current global issue that disproportionately impacts rural women is climate change. Women and girls living in areas affected by desertification and deforestation have to walk longer to collect water and firewood, which further limits the time they can devote to school or income-generating activities. It may also put them at greater risk of gender-based violence. A report being launched on Wednesday by the United Nations in commemoration of the Day of Rural Women, says although women make a major contribution to agriculture production, this contribution is underreported in all developing regions because women’s work is often unrecognized or is considered part of “housework”. Rural women’s labour in rural production becomes invisible in the unpaid work category.
The report underscores the need to understand the situation of rural women, stating that it is necessary to examine the full diversity of their experiences in the context of the changing rural economy, including their position within household and community structures; the gender division of labour; their access to and control over resources; and their participation in decision-making.
Hundred of rural women will be converging in Islamabad on Wednesday to celebrate world rural women’s day.
In the first ever National Conference on World Rural Women’s Day, women from across the country will talk about their issues, share experiences and bring attention to their role and contribution to the economic and social spheres of the society.
The conference would be jointly organized by civil society organizations including Potohar Organization for Development and Advocacy (PODA), ActionAid, Lok Virsa and UNIFEM, with an aim to acknowledge the contribution of rural women for national development. The conference aims at bringing the women voices in the forefront and mobilise them to claim and achieve their rightful place in the society.
The conference comprises consultations and discussions on pertinent issues facing rural women mainly economy, food security and recognition of women farmers’ rights, agricultural education, discrimination against rural girls, land rights and access to justice for rural women. The discussions will also emphasize standards of the rights of rural women and status of their implementation in Pakistan .