Rural girls under 18 are a vital force for rural communities and rural development, and constitute many of the world’s current and future farmers. Globally, most young women between the ages of 10 and 24 live in less developed countries and in rural areas – where the majority of today’s global poor can be found. Therefore, many girls in the 15-17 age group, age at which they are transitioning from childhood to adulthood, which often means early marriage and pregnancy, live in poverty and are at high risk of exploitation. These girls continue to face discrimination based on deeply rooted gender stereotypes, especially in comparison to their urban counterparts. They can easily succumb to child labour and face additional challenges in accessing decent employment opportunities, productive resources and services.
However there are several potential actions that could be undertaken to help rural girls thrive.
With the right gender-responsive policies, efforts that support youth aged 15-17 and rural communities can strongly contribute to the empowerment of these girls.
• Recognize the needs of rural youth, boys and girls, aged 15-17 globally and at policy level, supporting equal access to decent work opportunities, equal access to resources, and participation in social dialogue. Governments must coordinate and institutionalize action.
• Embrace the richness of agriculture in education, technical and vocational education and training (TVET), and technical schools to meet the needs of rural communities – and adapt learning programmes to the specific needs and aspirations of girls.
• Include young women in the new wave of agricultural development that is bringing innovation and technology to rural areas to improve the agricultural sector and tackle rural-urban migration, such as green jobs and agribusiness.
• Prevent child labour by building capacities of stakeholders in the private sector to ensure decent and equal working conditions and to improve agricultural practices, in collaboration with agricultural stakeholders, to prevent hazardous working conditions for boys and girls.
Action targeting the specific needs of girls must also increase to make a difference:
• Motivate and facilitate female-led youth collective mobilization to integrate their voice in policy processes and in agricultural organizations, empower them to have an active voice in the household and community creating a safe space for girls and women.
• Ensure social protection policies provide additional support to mothers and girls with care-taking responsibilities .
• Ensure that the importance of rural girls’ education is emphasized within education and rural development policy and programme development.
• Raise awareness and knowledge to challenge cultural and social norms that preserve harmful and constraining gender stereotypes in rural areas.
• Promote women’s and girl’s access to assets such as land, livestock, water; productive resources financial products, extension services, such as technologies and inputs; and services, land, such as information, training, credit, extension, transport - so that they are enabled to access markets and opportunities
• Foster introduction of innovative financial products and services according to this population, such as funds; integrated package of services (mentoring and training); modern collateral regimes; group lending; ICT-led solutions, among others, that enhance their entrepreneurial potential.
• Collect sex-disaggregated data about gender differences and inequalities in rural employment.