Give rural women more opportunities and more rights

Rachael Stokes
By Rachael Stokes: February 22nd, 2012

It almost goes without saying that rural women have a vital role to play in the development of their communities and efforts to tackle poverty. They make up the majority of small holder farmers worldwide and are responsible for 80% of global food production. Rural women also undertake the majority of unpaid labour intensive household work, such as collecting firewood and water, and childcare.

Yet, rural women own less than 2% of land, access just 5% of agricultural extension assistance and have limited control over the income generated from their production. They are particularly vulnerable to low paying, insecure and, in some cases, unsafe employment. Furthermore, their low participation and representation in rural decision making means that their voices are not heard and their needs not reflected in rural policies or services.

These issues combined mean that rural women are simply not having the opportunity to contribute and benefit fully from development. This is a gross injustice. And a huge waste.

VSO will be attending the 56th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) later this month to draw attention to these challenges. We’ll also highlight what we have identified as successful ways to bring about rural women’s political and economic empowerment.

In Kenya, VSO is working with women’s groups and women entrepreneurs in the handicraft and fruit sectors as part of its Improving Secure Livelihoods programme. VSO volunteers have been providing skills training and technical support to enable women to set up and strengthen their own businesses. Women are now moving from low paid employment to secure and sustainable self employment. It has also provided them with a greater status, profile and influence within their communities.

At CSW we will be specifically calling for action in the following areas:

  • ensuring  women have a stronger voice in the design and delivery of rural policy and services
  • increasing women’s representation in rural governance and institutions
  • making markets work for women
  • promoting job-centred growth and equal access to decent work
  • recognising the equal leadership role of women and men in responding to climate change.

As we prepare to discuss and debate these issues, it would be helpful to hear your views. What do you think are the key barriers to rural women’s empowerment and how can we address them?

Read our position paper on rural women’s economic empowerment and find out more about our Improving Secure Livelihoods programme in Kenya.

You can also follow us at CSW via Twitter: @rachaelstokes


2 comment on Give rural women more opportunities and more rights

  1. Zakia Haque Zakia Haque says:

    Its really nice reading the blog write-up on rural women status. Bangladesh programme of VSOB also focus on empowerment of rural marginalized women through linking them with Youth Clubs and model project initiatives.Thanking you. Zakia

  2. Rachael Stokes Rachael Stokes says:

    Hi Zakia, thanks very much for your comments. please do share other examples from your programmes. I hope to be meeting Ms Monira Rahmen later this week who is involved with the Bangaldesh Women’s Leadership Network and is a prospective Commonwealth Fellow. More updates from CSW to follow shortly!
    With best wishes,

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