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International Women's Day 2023

Statement by Alvaro Lario, IFAD President

08 mars 2023

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You are probably reading this statement on a digital device, taking for granted access to global information at your fingertips.  However, this is not often so for most rural communities especially women. Digital technologies and services are spurring innovation, opening access to new perspectives, and creating the potential for a more inclusive prosperity around the world – for individuals, communities, and nations. Yet in almost every corner of the world, women often have less access to digital technologies than men. Rural women, in particular, not only fare worse than men in the communities where they live but they also fare worse than their urban counterparts.

On this International Women’s Day, I invite you to consider the potential transformative impact that digital technology can have for rural women: from access to education and tools to take control over their finances to the delivery of agricultural extension and financial services that can drastically improve the lives of women farmers. But to make these benefits a reality, we need to address the triple divide that rural women face in developing countries:

  • Digital as poorer segments of the population have less access to digital channels.
  • Rural as remoteness and lack of supporting infrastructure, including electricity, limits the availability of digital infrastructure.
  • Gender as women have less access to and control of digital devices and data.

This triple divide has deep roots – in geographies, in peoples and in cultures.  It can make women and girls more vulnerable to economic, environmental, and human-made shocks. The last few years have brought, unfortunately, many of these shocks in quick succession – the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts and tensions, global inflationary pressures, and intensifying climate change. Digital solutions, from electronic cash transfers to address food insecurity during the most intense period of the pandemic to the provision of climate data to facilitate planting decisions as climate patterns change, have shown their potential to manage the impacts of these crises. We need to make sure that women can take advantage of these tools: this is particularly important for rural women and girls as they are disproportionately affected by these crises.

Yet this whirlwind of crises also presents an opportunity. Moments of stress can be times of learning and innovation. They push people, communities and even governments to see, think and act differently. In adversity, we can sometimes find and accept new ways to tackle old problems.

IFAD is committed to do just that and to contribute to closing the triple divide. By making it possible for rural women living in poverty to take advantage of adapted digital technologies, we can change lives and build communities:

  • In Guatemala, for example, IFAD’s Rural Poor Stimulus Facility has given more than 1,500 rural women access to digital banking services in some of the most vulnerable communities in the country. This is helping them rebuild their livelihoods after disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In Jordan, an e-wallet scheme is helping local small-scale food producers -- the majority of them women -- receive payments from remote buyers.
  • In Pakistan, digital extension services have enabled over 100,000 women to benefit from valuable farming advice.
  • In Kenya, an e-voucher system is helping over 60,000 women to invest in their business and generate new income-earning opportunities. 

At IFAD, through our ICT4D and gender strategies, we are committed to scale up solutions that promote gender equality as part of our efforts to build resilient rural communities to prevent and mitigate the impact of crises of today and tomorrow. We know that women, especially poor women, often suffer most when disaster strikes. But we also know that -- during crises -- their strength, their ingenuity and their resilience is even more important for holding communities and families together. That’s why they are integral to everything we do.  They create, shape and influence IFAD’s programs everywhere we work.

This International Women’s Day is a time to commit to a future where rural women and girls enjoy the freedom, opportunity and equality that is their right. Today, we have more knowledge and more tools at our disposal to make this vision a reality. Digital technologies alone will not close the triple divide. But if rural women can create, shape and influence the development of digital technologies adapted to their needs, priorities and capacities these technologies can help us accelerate towards fairer, more equal and more prosperous societies.

Because when rural women rise, we all rise.