Soroptimist International’s first parallel event at CSW62: a 360° view of the issues facing rural women.
Introduction by SI Advocacy Director, Bev Bucur and moderated by SI President, Mariet Cohen.
A blog by Meltem Zourdos, Executive Director, Soroptimist International of Europe
“Women represent 50% of the agricultural workforce, yet they face gender-based inequality and discrimination. Soroptimist International’s parallel event on 12 March, picked up CSW62’s main theme with the four Federations providing project examples on the topic “Solutions to the multi-layered issues faced by rural women”.
SIE’s Vice-President Advocacy Elisabeth Nyadwe provided examples of projects from all over the European Federation in the area of rural economic empowerment.
Investing in education of rural women and girls is crucial for female economic empowerment globally. The “Safe Water, Sanitation and Green Energy” project by Kenyan Clubs, in collaboration with the Women for Water Partnership, benefited 12 rural communities across 4 counties in Kenya. It brought safe water and sanitation facilities to schools. This had a direct impact on girls’ school attendance and in addition, the whole community benefitted from clean water facilities.
In Italy, the “Women’s agriculture for a sustainable environment” project contributes to the economic empowerment of women farmers. It promotes women agriculturalists producing high quality products and demonstrating great environmental consciousness, by exposing them to larger markets. In doing so, it gives visibility to both women farmers and sustainable agriculture.
According to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, “just 39% of rural girls attend secondary school. This is far fewer than rural boys (45 %), [and urban children (about 60 % )]”
Minda Garcia, member of the SIA Board of Directors focused on SIA’s work in the Philippines through two tools. The “Live Your Dream Award” gives young women the chance to pursue higher education, while “Dream It, Be It” empowers girls in secondary school with career counseling and coaching.
Rochelle, a rural teenager from the Philippines for example, did not let her past of sexual abuse and difficult conditions define her future. A grantee of the “Live Your Dream Award”, she followed her long held wish of becoming a teacher while still being able to be the sole caretaker of her siblings. Usually grants are spent on tuition. What sets the “Live your Dream Award” apart is that women like Rochelle can spend the awarded money on anything helping them pursue their education, like childcare for example.
Access to education opens the way to jobs with higher wages, encourages women to marry later, have fewer children, and leaves them less vulnerable to violence. Women like Rochelle, become confident role models, leaders in their communities and thus a catalyst for change.
Providing economic opportunities to women and girls strengthens entire communities for long term change
Joanne Harris from SIGBI, President of SI Northern Ireland highlighted the Meru Women’s Garden Project implemented in collaboration with Child.org in Kenya. The Meru project aims to create sustainable gardening techniques and tools to enable women to become mentors and pioneers of agricultural sustainability within the community.
In her concluding remarks Joanne emphasized the need of government, private sector and civil society to partner up, the need to implement Human Rights and CEDAW and last but not least the need to address sex-disaggregated data collection policies.
Comprising 50% of the workforce, women play an important role in agriculture
Theresa Lyford, President SISWP drew attention to the fact that even Australia is lacking behind the developed world, when it comes to rural women – underrepresented in agricultural management and decision and policymaking fora, to this day dominated by white males.
This said, women of the South Pacific Islands live under worrying circumstance. They are among the most vulnerable groups in the world when it comes to gender inequality. To better the lives of rural women and girls in the Asia-Pacific Region we need to rise to the challenge of having adequate living standards, achieving women’s economic empowerment, ensure land rights, food security, health care and quality education as well as resilience and preparedness to deal with disasters and conflicts.
Recommendations for going forward
- Work towards recommendations that look at the urgent need to strengthen normative and legal frameworks for women in rural settings.
- Work with local Government and Central Government Agencies to reframe agricultural policies to encourage women’s active engagement in agricultural policy and practice.
- Ensure that there is coordinated action for the social and economic empowerment and meaningful participation of rural women and girls in society.
- Ensure access of rural women to technology and ICT facilities in remote regions.
The Q&A session concludes the following takeaways:
- Advocacy is key. There is a need to find out the legal conditions for an initiative to make it to the political discussion table of key stakeholders
- Amplify our efforts by working together on projects is essential. SIE is reviving the Project Matching Tool to this end.
- Reliable data is key. There is a need to address the issue of sex-disaggregated data collection policies”.