CSW Blog Special! Unlocking Rural Women's Potential…

Wow – it is one year since we launched the SoroptiVoice Blog
at CSW 55! And now we are back again, reporting live from CSW 56 which is due to close today. Thank
you to our team of Soroptimist delegates who have been keeping us up to
date with all the latest news from New York. This update is from SI Assistant Programme Director, Anusha Santhirasthipam, who reports back from a UNDP workshop.

From Saturday 25
February till Friday 9 March 2012, the “city that never sleeps” New York was
pulsating with the passion, purpose and dynamism of more than 4,000 women NGO representatives
engaging with Government leaders from more than 170 countries facilitated by
hundreds of senior executives from all U.N. agencies. What was the burning
issue? The empowerment of rural women to eradicate world hunger and poverty.

The steep increases
in food prices (83% over the past 3 years) has added another 100 million people
to the world total of 1 billion people who are chronically hungry (as reported by the World Bank). Rural women produce between 60-80% of food crops in developing countries.
Women are largely responsible to spend on family wellbeing, including food and
healthcare. It is imperative that a more gender-responsive approach is developed
to ensure that women farmers benefit from research, extension, credit, land
rights, market access and other elements of production, innovation and

I participated in
a major UNDP workshop on the subject and learnt how Soroptimist clubs could
work closely with UNDP and local government agencies to empower rural women.
Here are some effective ways.

–  EDUCATE: Soroptimists can facilitate information sources,
government networking and training for rural women to learn about the best
seeds, technologies, modern farming practices and market networks.

– EMPOWER: Soroptimists can assist rural women to secure
micro-finance, establish women farmers co-operatives, link with other women
farmers groups to jointly develop resources and establish fair trade.

– ENABLE: Soroptimists can gather data and monitor
progress (“numbers talk” says UNDP) of
rural women in commercial agriculture to analyse women’s role in the value
chain and influence policy reforms for more equitable frameworks. Soroptimists
from the corporate sector can facilitate direct contracts between food
manufacturers and women farmers to help circumvent “middlemen”.

The International
Center for Research on Women provided excellent resources at this workshop. Do check out their website for useful
materials at www.icrw.org.

Another major
discovery for me was the UNDP’s Women’s Green Business Initiative which aims to
empower women workers and entrepreneurs in developing countries to engage in
the design, production and delivery of green technologies, products, services
and information that can help societies adapt to and mitigate the effects of
climate change. 

UNDP officials told
me that they would welcome cooperation with Soroptimist International to assist women
to access Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund and Climate Change Fund so that
women can accelerate sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty. For more
information on this, go to www.undp.org/women

During CSW56 I
prioritised attending UN agency organised workshops and panel sessions at the
Main U.N Buildings. These meetings clearly established the need for a
multifaceted and integrated policy response and sharing of best practices by
Governments and civil society organisations.

UN agencies
emphasised capacity building courses, measuring programme effectiveness and an
institutional approach (sets “rules of the game”) to build resources, agency
and power for women. In this context,
Soroptimist International is on the right track as clearly demonstrated in the SI Global Impact Report.

Let’s keep this momentum



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