International

Rural women’s vision for development

Rural women south west Bangladesh
Rachael Stokes
By Rachael Stokes: March 7th, 2012

In my last blog on the 56th Session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), I wrote about how rural women are often marginalised from decision making and are consequently the silent voices of rural development.

VSO partner, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), is one organisation that is working to redress this imbalance.

Working with more than 180 members across the Asia-Pacific region, APWLD’s Women in Power programme aims to strengthen women’s political participation and ensure political systems and structures are more gender sensitive. It does this through providing training and networking opportunities for women, as well as through research and advocacy.

At the CSW itself, APWLD has provided rural women with a platform to voice their concerns and speak directly about the issues affecting their lives.

During a parallel event they hosted last week, entitled ‘Rethinking developing frameworks: rural women’s vision of development’, we heard testimonies from women such as Laja Mirano, Vice-Chair of the National Federation of Peasant Women in the Philippines, who talked of their 50-year struggle to secure land titles for farm workers, many of whom are indigenous women.

We learnt of the violence and forced labour facing internally displaced women and children in Kachin, Burma; of the health effects of unregulated agrochemical use on the predominantly female agricultural workforce in Kyrgyzstan, and of the impact of military occupation by Indonesian forces on women in the West Papua territory.

In spite of the diverse experiences and challenges facing rural women in the region, was there a shared vision for development? Yes there was, and in essence it was quite simple: for rural women’s right to a livelihood to be recognised. For APWLD members, this involves access to three basic elements: food, natural resources, and markets.

So as we mark International Women’s Day this week and celebrate the achievements of women the world over, it is also a time to remember that for many women, enjoying their basic human rights remains an aspiration rather than a reality.

For more information see APWLD’s oral statement to the General Discussion at the Commission on the Status of Women

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