October 15 is the UN International Day of Rural Women. This day, which was first established in 2008, recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”
Gender inequity plays a special role within agriculture, as women are often pivotal to ensure household food security. Yet they are often not given access to resources or have little decision-making power.
Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19
Women and girls are disadvantaged in this pandemic, a problem aggravated in rural areas. Rural women, with a crucial role in agriculture, food security and nutrition, already face struggles in their daily lives. Now, since COVID-19 and their unique health needs in remote areas, they are less likely to have access to quality health services, essential medicines, and vaccines. Restrictive social norms and gender stereotypes can also limit rural women’s ability to access health services. Furthermore, a lot of rural women suffer from isolation, as well as the spread of misinformation, and a lack of access to critical technologies to improve their work and personal life.
Despite all of that, rural women have been at the front lines of responding to the pandemic even as their unpaid care and domestic work increased under lockdowns.
We need measures to alleviate the care burden and better redistribute it between women and men, between families and public/commercial services, especially in the most marginalized remote villages . We need to advocate for sufficient infrastructure and services (water, health, electricity, etc.) to support women’s productive and unpaid care, domestic work, which is exacerbated by the crisis.
The Invaluable Contribution of Rural Women to Development
The crucial role that women and girls play in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods, has been increasingly recognized. Women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labour force, including informal work, and domestic work within families and households in rural areas. They make significant contributions to agricultural production, food security and nutrition, land and natural resource management, and building climate resilience.