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New York event highlights the crucial role of rural women in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Rural women and their role in eradicating poverty should be given high priority in the post-2015 development agenda — that was the key message among speakers at a special event to mark the 2014 International Day for Rural Women at UN headquarters in New York on 15 October.

© FAO / Sudeshna Chowdhury

Themed What Can We Do to Empower Rural Women in the Post-2015 Development Agenda?  the event, organised by FAO, WFP, IFAD and UN Women, highlighted the importance of raising the profile of rural women and shedding light on their struggles.

Chaired and moderated by Ambassador Guillermo E. Rischynski of Canada and Ambassador Ochir Enkhtsetseg of Mongolia, panellists included H.E. Talayibek Kydyrov (Kyrgyzstan), Permanent Representative to the UN; Thomas Yanga, Director, New York Office of WFP; Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women and Sarah Campbell from the World Farmers Organization (WFO).

Despite four world conferences on women, speakers agreed that considerably more still needs to be done to address challenges specific to rural women who continue to face gender disparity and live under extreme poverty.

Mr Yanga, who delivered his remarks on behalf of the Rome-based Agencies — FAO, IFAD and WFP — highlighted how the three agencies are working to strengthen the role of rural women to help achieve food security.

FAO, he said, is training women in its Farmer Field Schools and other programmes, and focuses on issues of land ownership through the Committee on World Food Security’s (CFS) Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure.

“IFAD works through its loan and grants portfolio to reach out to smallholder farmers, including women, in key countries to work on more than just agricultural production,” said Mr Yanga. “WFP time and again helps foster adequate nutrition for women and girls so that they can lead healthy and productive lives.” Despite all these efforts, he noted, rural women — who constitute more than 40 percent of the agricultural labour force — continue to be one of the “most disadvantaged groups in the world."

Ms Puri emphasized the importance of thinking of rural women in the bigger context of eliminating hunger. “Given that 76 percent of the extreme poor live in rural areas, this will not only economically empower rural women but also contribute to the decline in world hunger and overall rural poverty,” she said, adding that, to meet these challenges women must be “provided with access to and control over productive agricultural and natural resources”.

Ms Campbell urged for specific policies to address the challenges faced by women farmers globally. “It is important to acknowledge that farmers are a diverse group of people. They are young, they are people of colour and they are women,” she said. “Increasing visibility of women farmers will help change the perception as to how they are generally viewed.”