President’s Message: International Day of Rural Women

Dear Soroptimists,

The coming week sees three notable International days, leading with, 15 October, The International Day for Rural Women, closely followed by World Food Day on 16 October and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October.

The three days are inextricably linked, each issue adversely affecting women and girls. Whilst in recent decades extreme poverty has declined, most of the world’s poor still live in rural areas. Hunger and food insecurity above all are expressions of rural poverty. (FAO)

This years’ theme for the UN International Day of Rural Women, is “Challenges and opportunities in climate-resilient agriculture for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”. This coincides with the theme for the 62nd UN Committee on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York coming March: “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) notes that many of the rural poor are subsistence producers – those who grow crops and raise livestock sufficient only for their own use and 60% of these farmers are women.

The SI President’s Appeal (PA) 2017-2019, Women, Water & Leadership and the Sustainable Development Goals 4 (Education), 5 (Gender Equality) and 6 (Water for all for all purposes) are interlinked. The first project that will be supported by the PA, will seek through vocational training and capacity building, to help 500 women farmers in Kenya, Africa, move on from subsistence farming to commercial farming. In doing so the project aims to empower the women to improve the food security of their families and communities, contributing to achieving Sustainable Development on the challenges of poverty, food security, access to water, gender equality, education, and environment worldwide.

A recent study* has just been released regarding child labour and agriculture. Highlights include the fact that 71% of child labour is in agriculture and among children aged 5-11 for the largest share, many of which are girls. Also of significance is that this study is the first to look at the relationship between child labour and education and states that a very large number of children in child labour are completely deprived of education. Offering vocational training to women farmers will empower them.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. It is also the 30th anniversary of the ‘Call to Action’ by Father Joseph Wresinski, which inspired the observance of October 17 as the World Day for Overcoming Extreme Poverty, and the recognition by the UN of the day known as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

We know that women and girls in rural areas suffer disproportionately from poverty. However, dear Soroptimists, please don’t forget the invaluable contribution of rural women to development. Women contribute significantly to the agricultural production, food security and nutrition, land and natural resource management, and to building climate resilience. That is why the PA supports rural women through water and vocational training and why we should remember the rural women and girls on these special UN days.

Mariet Verhoef-Cohen

SI President

* Global Estimates for Child Labour Alliance Results and Trends 2012





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