Rural women rising: Investing today for tomorrow’s sustainable future

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Rural women rising: Investing today for tomorrow’s sustainable future

International Rural Women’s day

On International Rural Women's Day, we recognise the tremendous strength of rural women and girls across the globe. These women and girls, the backbone of our rural communities, are not just farmers, entrepreneurs, and caregivers; they are the very heartbeat of the land they nurture and the families they sustain. Rural women are instrumental in driving economic, environmental, and social advancements.

When we invest in rural women and girls, we invest in the future because their empowerment is fundamental for the wellbeing not only of their rural communities but for the world at large.

However, rural women often encounter significant barriers in reaching their potential.  Social norms, restrictive legal frameworks and expectations limit the opportunities open to them. As a consequence, rural women often have fewer opportunities than men to participate in education and training, to have a voice in decision-making processes, or to own or use land and other assets.

But this can all be changed, if we make the right investments. By channelling dedicated financial support and resources towards the empowerment of rural women and girls, we are making a strategic investment in a more sustainable tomorrow. We are giving rural communities everywhere the best chance to thrive, to be places where decent jobs and economic opportunities are available to all, and where young people can build fulfilling lives.

We are making progress, but we still have a long way to go. Today, of all the financial aid between countries, just 4% is earmarked for projects where gender equality stood as the top priority.

We need to do more. We need to invest more.

Women also have key role to play as the world comes together to address the existential threat posed by climate change. As we approach COP28, we need to stress the importance of gender-responsive climate finance. When rural women are empowered, they adopt sustainable farming practices and play a catalytic role in making their communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change. IFAD calls on the global community to join us in investing in rural women to enable them to fulfil their potential as change agents towards a more sustainable future.

IFAD puts rural women at the forefront of our action on climate. We mainstream gender in all the programs we finance and have committed to dedicate at least 40% of our financing to activities promoting resilience to climate change. Our Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP+) prioritizes women in its effort to find solutions to enable rural communities to adapt to climate change.

In addition to climate finance, investments are needed that realize women’s rights to use and control natural resources – especially land. Globally, only 12.8% of agricultural landholders are women. This is part of the reason they are relegated to unpaid and unproductive jobs, such as fetching water. Women and girls, for example, collectively expend 200 million hours daily collecting water, which takes away time to spend on income generating activities.

The unequal division of labour and inequitable workloads are central issues to be considered in investments.  By investing in labour-saving technologies -- such as solar-powered water pumps and stoves -- women’s time is freed for more productive activities. This means higher agricultural productivity, more diverse livelihoods, better nutrition, health and educational outcomes, and more vibrant rural communities free from the fear of food insecurity.

Our vision is clear: rural women and girls should not just be recipients but active leaders and decision-makers, shaping a more equitable and prosperous future.

Let’s recommit ourselves to the cause of rural women. Let us work together, with renewed vigor and passion, to ensure that the needs and aspirations of rural women are not just acknowledged but actively supported. Joining forces, we can create a better world where rural women are empowered, and given the opportunities they so rightly deserve.