UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet statement for the International Day of Rural Women, to be observed on 15 October 2011
End hunger and advance food security — empower rural women. Prioritizing women is not a choice. It is a necessity.
This year’s International Day of Rural Women should remind us of the huge contributions that rural women make to social and economic progress and in the fight against poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. Today as nations struggle with food security, it is time, more so than ever, to empower rural women.
In some parts of the world, women represent 70 percent of the agricultural workforce, comprising 43 percent of agricultural workers worldwide. Yet despite their heavy workload and productivity, rural women continue to face discrimination, which is not only a lack of justice but holds back gains in vital areas. If women farmers had equal access to resources and opportunities, they would drive greater progress in ending hunger, boosting food security, and improving health and education.
The Food and Agriculture Organization points out that if women farmers were given the same access to resources such as seeds, credit and fertilizer, the results could be significant. Women’s agricultural yields could increase by 20 to 30 percent, raising agricultural production in developing countries by up to 4 percent. It would also mean 100 million to 150 million fewer people going hungry.
Ensuring women’s access to land and other resources requires changes in laws and institutions to end discrimination, and supportive public policies to promote equality. It also requires the engagement of community organizations and the participation of rural women in decision-making.
At next year’s Commission on the Status of Women, the focus will be on empowering rural women. UN Women looks forward to continued and greater collaboration with the UN system and other partners to remove the obstacles that exclude rural women and to advance laws and policies that promote their rights, opportunities and participation.
On this International Day, I salute rural women and call on the world community to recognize the contributions that rural women make to our collective well-being. It is time to unleash the full potential of women to generate greater progress for people and our planet. Prioritizing women is not a choice. It is a necessity.