International Day of Rural Women: Empowering women to transform rural areas

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International Day of Rural Women: Empowering women to transform rural areas

©IFAD/Anwar Hossain

Nepal, Production Credit for Rural Women Project: The Women Development Branch has organized women's groups to help in environmental conservation. Here women are weeding to protect what they have planted.

Message from Perin Saint Ange, Associate Vice-President, Programme Management Department

On the occasion of the International Day of Rural Women (15 October 2016), IFAD celebrates women and girls in rural areas and the vital role that they play in their families, their communities and their countries.

In many parts of the world, women typically work for 12 hours more every week than their male counterparts. They are largely responsible for domestic duties, child care and elder care. In addition, women carry out a substantial and growing part of the work on family farms – with male out-migration increasingly leaving them to manage alone. Women boost  agricultural and rural economies with their labour and with their knowledge - of crop and livestock varieties, biodiversity and agricultural practices. Research has also shown that women spend a far larger part of their income than men on household expenses, including food, education and healthcare.

Despite their crucial multiple contributions, much of women’s work is undervalued, underpaid, or not paid at all. Women farmers in the vast majority of developing countries still have significantly greater difficulties than men in accessing essential resources and services, including land, finance and inputs.

Rural labour markets tend to favour educated young men, marginalizing women and young women and obliging them to accept poorly paid often exploitative employment options.

IFAD knows from experience that inclusive rural transformation can provide valuable new opportunities for rural women. But perhaps more importantly, we have also seen many times that empowered women can become agents of change in rural areas. With the right support, women can contribute to and drive rural transformation, changing their own lives and those of their communities.

Inclusive rural transformation is a complex and context-specific process. In addition to increased and diversified agricultural productivity, it includes stronger linkages between rural and urban areas with more intense flows of goods, growing demands for agricultural products and services, access to modern technologies and innovations, and better commercial opportunities. All of these elements have big potential benefits for rural women.  

IFAD invests in rural people. We believe that inclusive rural transformation starts with them – women, men and youth. Together with our partners, we continue to advocate for a consistent focus on rural women in Agenda 2030 – the world’s new vision for sustainable development.

In the new IFAD Strategic Framework 2016-2025, gender equality is identified as one of the five principles of engagement at the core of IFAD’s identity and values. In the forthcoming years, the Fund will build on successful experiences in gender mainstreaming – such as household methodologies, functional literacy, financial competency, leadership skills and engaging with men – and go beyond to achieve real transformative gender impacts. Investments and policy engagement to scale up positive results in gender equality will produce far-reaching and sustainable changes, and contribute to the achievement of IFAD’s mandate.

We are convinced that greater gender equality leads to greater, more inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity, and a better quality of life for all.

IFAD’s recently launched Rural Development Report 2016: Fostering inclusive rural transformation (RDR 2016) spotlights the challenges and opportunities for rural women under rural transformation and outlines the actions needed to empower them as agents of change.

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