Written by UN WOMEN
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This week, UN Women marks three UN observances that reflect women's key role in development, beginning with International Day for Rural Women on 15 October, World Food Day on 16 October and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October.
Rural women are key agents for development. They play a catalytic role towards achievement of transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. But limited access to credit, health care and education are among the many challenges they face. These are further aggravated by the global food and economic crises and climate change. Empowering them is essential, not only for the well-being of individuals, families and rural communities, but also for overall economic productivity, given women’s large presence in the agricultural workforce worldwide.
UN Women supports the leadership and participation of rural women in shaping laws, policies and programmes on all issues that affect their lives, including improved food and nutrition security, and better rural livelihoods. Training equips them with skills to pursue new livelihoods and adapt technology to their needs.
Women play a key role in food production and form a large proportion of the agricultural work force globally.
Infographic on women farmers' access to tools and credit
Given equal resources, women could contribute much more. FAO estimates that if women farmers (43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries) had the same access as men, agricultural output in 34 developing countries would rise by an estimated average of up to 4 per cent. This could reduce the number of undernourished people in those countries by as much as 17 per cent, translating to up to 150 million fewer hungry people.
According to new estimates, about 870 million people, or one in eight worldwide, did not consume enough food on a regular basis to cover their minimum dietary energy requirements over the period 2010 to 2012. The vast majority live in developing countries.
Many of the world’s most poor are women. Poverty eradication is a key challenge for rural women. New poverty estimates from the World Bank show that the proportion of people living on less than USD 1.25 a day fell from 47 per cent in 1990 to 22 per cent in 2010, across every developing region. Yet, 1.2 billion people are still living in extreme poverty.
Coordinated UN action
To help rural women escape poverty, in 2012 UN Women joined with the World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agriculture Development to launch a joint programme to empower poor rural women through economic integration and food security initiatives. The initiative aims to empower rural women to claim their rights to land, leadership, opportunities and choices, and to participate in shaping laws, policies and programmes.
During the High-Level week of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly, UN Women, with support from the Government of Canada, launched the Knowledge Gateway for Economic Empowerment. The new online platform is an open global community for knowledge mobilization, innovation and partnerships. It seeks to re-vitalize women’s economic empowerment by building connections and bringing together people who need resources with those that have them. The portal will feature e-discussions, interviews, videos and other resources on rural women, food and poverty reduction from 15-25 October.