World Rural Women's Day - 15th October

A global awareness and information campaign has been launched to bring rural women - the world's invisible workers - into the limelight on 15 October for the second annual World Rural Women's Day.

One woman does the family wash while another feeds her baby in the United Republic of Tanzania

The gathering of gender-specific statistics in recent years has confirmed two facts: the majority of poor people in the world are women, and these women are overwhelmingly responsible for feeding hungry men and children, as well as themselves. They grow, gather and catch the family meals, bring home water and wood, and prepare and cook the food. Where the rural poor get enough to eat, it is most often largely through the efforts, skills and knowledge of mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. Despite this, these women are often the last to gain access to resources, training and financial loans.

In many countries, the plight of rural women is worsening, as young and able-bodied men leave for the cities in search of work. The women left behind struggle to raise families and manage farms alone. Today in some regions of Africa, 60 percent of households are headed by women.

The message on 15 October 1997 - the day before World Food Day - is that investing in rural women means investing in food security. A cost-benefit analysis carried out by the World Bank indicates that investment in educating women and girls has the highest rate of return of any possible type of investment in developing nations. Its results include higher productivity, slower population growth, reduced child mortality rates and increased awareness and use of environmental protection measures. Research done in Kenya showed that women farmers who had finished their primary education earned 24 percent more than those who had not.

As part of the Rural Women's Day observances, an international symposium on the theme "Invest in Rural Women through Training and Information" will be held at FAO headquarters in Rome. The Symposium is billed as:

  • a symbolic synthesis of the many similar events being held around the world to celebrate the day;
  • a technical meeting to exchange views and promote North-South cooperation;
  • a celebration, an opportunity to get together and recognize the value of rural cultures.

The idea of an annual Rural Women's Day was launched at the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. This year it will be celebrated in some 50 countries around the world.

15 October 1997

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