15 October: International Day of Rural Women
The International Day of Rural Women was observed globally on October 15, 2018 with the theme, “Sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”.
The theme places empowerment of rural women at the heart of fulfilling the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The day aims to recognise the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.
The day aims to highlight the invaluable contribution of rural women to development and the crucial role they play in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing.
Women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labour force, including informal work, and perform the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work within families and households in rural areas.
Thus, they make significant contributions to agricultural production, food security and nutrition, land and natural resource management, and building climate resilience.
However, the women and girls in rural areas suffer disproportionately from multi-dimensional poverty. While extreme poverty has declined globally, the world’s 1 billion people who continue to live in unacceptable conditions of poverty are heavily concentrated in rural areas.
The poverty rates in rural areas across most regions are higher than those in urban areas, yet smallholder agriculture produces nearly 80 per cent of food in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and supports the livelihoods of some 2.5 billion people.
Though the women farmers may be as productive and enterprising as their male counterparts, they are less able to access land, credit, agricultural inputs, markets and high-value agrifood chains and obtain lower prices for their crops.
Structural barriers and discrimination
The structural barriers and discriminatory social norms constrain women’s decision-making power and political participation in rural households and communities.
Women and girls in rural areas lack equal access to productive resources and assets, public services, such as education and healthcare, and infrastructure, including water and sanitation, while much of their labour remains invisible and unpaid, even as their workloads become increasingly heavy due to the out-migration of men.
Globally, with few exceptions, every gender and development indicator for which data are available reveals that rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women and that they disproportionately experience poverty, exclusion and the effects of climate change.
The impacts of climate change, including on access to productive and natural resources, amplify the existing gender inequalities in rural areas.
The climate change affects women’s and men’s assets and well-being differently in terms of agricultural production, food security, health, water and energy resources, climate-induced migration and conflict and climate-related natural disasters.
• The Union Government of India declared October 15 as Mahila Kisan Diwas or the Day of Women Agriculturists.
• The day is being organised in association with the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
• It aims to recognise the contribution of women in agriculture as 80 per cent independent women in India were associated with the farm sector, while women lead 18 per cent of all agricultural households.
• The Indian theme for the day was decided as - ‘Sashakt Mahila, Sashakt Bharat’ (empowered women, empowered India).
Contribution of women in farming in India
Women play a crucial role in sustaining rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing.
They significantly contribute to agro-biodiversity conservation and agricultural production, food security and nutrition, land and natural resource management, building climate resilience, family incomes, health and education leading to improved quality of life.
Women also account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labour force.
The 2011 Census data shows that 65.1 per cent of female workers depends on agriculture, either as labourers or cultivators as opposed to 49.8 per cent of male workers.
Despite this, the significant presence of women in agriculture, women’s role and contribution remain unrecognised.
The non-recognition means that women remain largely invisible in agricultural policies, schemes, programmes and budgets and as compared to their male counterparts, they lack equal access over land tenure, wages, agricultural inputs, credit, markets, appropriate technologies and infrastructure.
Women also continue to suffer disproportionately due to poverty, structural barriers and discriminatory social norms and remain largely excluded from decision making and political processes in rural households and communities.
The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on October 15, 2008.
The day was established by the UN General Assembly through a resolution on December 18, 2007.
The day aims to recognize the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.
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