International Day of Rural Women: Message from Michel Mordasini, Vice-President of IFAD

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International Day of Rural Women: Message from Michel Mordasini, Vice-President of IFAD

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The Vice-President of IFAD, Michel Mordasini (centre) meets with a group of female shea processors at Kanvilli in Northern Ghana. ©IFAD/Francis Kokoroko

15 October 2015 - Twenty years ago, the historic Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing ended with the adoption of a global agenda for women's empowerment: the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

At the Huairou NGO Forum – organized in parallel to the 1995 Beijing Conference – civil society leaders advocated for an international day of rural women to be celebrated on 15 October, to highlight and promote women's fundamental role in agriculture and the strengthening of food security.

In 2007, the UN General Assembly established the International Day of Rural Women on this day, which had been commemorated by the NGO community to honour rural women since 1995.

Twenty years after the Fourth World Conference on Women, IFAD is dedicating the International Day of Rural Women 2015 to the thousands of women's leaders who have stepped up over the last two decades and worked relentlessly to empower rural women worldwide and to give them a voice.

Today we see an inspiring new generation of rural women leaders of all ages in the forefront of farmers' and producers' organizations, self-help groups, cooperatives, water users' associations and indigenous peoples' organizations. 

While progress has been made to empower rural women, many crucial issues still need to be addressed by the international community. We must:

  • recognize the vital role women play in the rural economy and rural employment and improve their social and economic status
  • remove structural constraints – such as lack of recognition of women's land and property rights – that prevent rural women and girls from fully enjoying their human rights
  • improve rural infrastructure and services (for example, water, energy, roads, schools, clinics) in order to facilitate women's involvement in social, political and economic activities
  • promote equality between women and men in decision-making at all levels – local, national and international
  • eliminate gender-based violence and discriminatory norms and practices that harm rural women and girls and limit their options in life.

On 27 September 2015, IFAD attended the Global Leaders' Meeting convened by UN Women and the Government of China at the United Nations. At this historic gathering in New York, 80 world leaders convened to commit personally to ending discrimination against women by 2030 and to announce concrete and measurable actions for rapid change in their countries. 

A few days earlier, at the UN General Assembly those same leaders had adopted the Sustainable Development Goals – widely known as the Global Goals. Women will play a critical role in implementing these goals, with many targets specifically recognizing women's equality and empowerment as both the objective, and a key part of the solution. Goal 5 is known as the stand-alone gender goal because it is dedicated to achieving these ends.1

At IFAD, we took careful note of the commitments made by world leaders for rural women. To give just a few examples, IFAD stands ready to support:

  •  Paraguay to boost resources for rural women and improve coordinated action to prevent violence against women
  •  Senegal in efforts to lighten the burden of women working in rural environments
  •  Viet Nam to reach a target for 2020 of 50 per cent of rural women gaining access to various forms of vocational training.

IFAD has a proven track record of reaching rural women and making a real difference to their lives. A full 49 per cent of the people who now participate in the projects we support are women – with a total of 56 million receiving services in 2014.

We do this work together with a wide range of organizations, and most importantly with rural women themselves.

With the Global Goals agreed, we are committed to stepping up our efforts with our partners in this crucial task: to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030.