International Day of Rural Women 2018: 5 problems, many solutions

UN's project, 'Evaluation, recovery and conservation of the genetic resources of the Suri alpaca strain in Peru'. (Image: UN)

On October 15, the United Nations commemorates the International Day of Rural Women.

This year the theme is ‘Sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.’

Importance of International Day of Rural Women 2018’s theme

On this International Day of Rural Women, UN Women calls upon the international community to work with rural women and girls everywhere and to invest in the sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection that can revolutionize their livelihoods, well-being and resilience.

  • Sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection are central to progress
  • Measures to improve their delivery can bring both immediate relief and lifelong benefits

5 problems rural women face

Read below to know the issues women in rural areas face, that not only create barriers to education and employment but more unpaid domestic work, higher risk of maternal mortality and violence, and psychosocial stress — among other things.

1. Women in labour force

Rural women make up 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, in work that is time- and labour-intensive, informal and poorly paid, with little social protection or income security.

2. Child labour

  • Child labour is prevalent in rural areas, with girls forming a significant part of the agricultural workforce

3. Collection of safe drinking water

  • Women and girls are responsible for water collection in 80 per cent of households without access to safe drinking water
  • This work is arduous and will only become harder as water shortages increase
  • The journey to collect water also poses safety risks

Extending the reach of water grids and continuous piped drinking water to rural communities is therefore an important priority with multiple benefits.

4. Health risks

Without adequate water and sanitation facilities, women and girls are exposed to illness, violence and other risks to their safety

  • These deficits also hamper their ability to get a good education, earn an income and move around freely

5. Fuel collection

Fuel collection, which can take as much as five hours every day, and cooking with unclean fuels can result in long-term and even fatal health problems for women.

In countries that rely heavily on fuels like coal, wood, manure or crop waste for cooking, women account for 6 out of every 10 premature deaths through household air pollution.

Rural women initiatives

Rural women’s civil society organizations, enterprises and cooperatives are critical in mobilizing rural women, supporting their voice, agency and representation in political and economic spheres, and enabling them to influence the decisions and institutions that affect their lives.

Around the world, rural women have mobilized to secure water for irrigation and household use, and renewable energy for lighting their homes and powering small businesses.

  • Resourcefully, rural women’s cooperatives are providing childcare services for and by their members
  • But small-scale solutions are not enough

The need for support

They must be joined by large-scale institutional initiatives that invest in a different future, in which women and girls participate and benefit equally to men and boys.