On the eve of International Women’s Day, the United Nations is renewing its call for concrete actions to address the plight of rural women who make up over a quarter of the world population yet are being left behind in every measure of development.
In an opening statement, UN Under-Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka applauded a new era for women displaying “a remarkable gathering of strength, speaking with one voice, calling for opportunity and accountability, drawing momentum from grassroots networks and coalitions that stretch right up to government leadership.”
But rural women, “face unequal day-to-day realities because of entrenched socio-cultural norms and practices,” noted the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa. “There is an urgent need to step up efforts with concrete actions (to) fulfil the commitments made to rural women in Africa.”
“Rural women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labor force,” affirmed a research and documentation center in Nigeria. “Yet they lack access to agricultural inputs and finance, they have less than 14 percent land holding rights, while culture, tradition and discriminatory laws deny women equal access to government programs at national and state levels. “
In Nigeria, over 90 percent of land is held and controlled by men while women as wives or daughters in many communities have little control over such lands, added Ms Mimido Akchapa of Women Rights to Education of Benue (Nigeria).
“They continue to suffer in silence due to discrimination on the basis of gender and not because they have less strength or intelligence to perform rural activities in the agricultural value chain,” the Benue women’s group said. “This has negative implications for basic food production and the eradication of poverty.”
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres issued a statement: “Let me be clear: this is not a favor to women. Gender equality is a human rights issue, but it is also in all our interests: men and boys, women and girls.
“Investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies, and even countries. Women’s participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous.”
The high-level side event, during the 62nd Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 62), is scheduled to take place from March 12 to 23 at UN Headquarters .The theme for this year’s commemoration is: “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives”.