The role of women in rural development, food production and poverty eradication

Date : 15 October 2012

Preparing Grain for Grinding and Cleaning
In the village of Toktonaliev, Kyrgyzstan, Uzenova Kerimkan prepares grain to be cleaned using a machine purchased with grant money from UN Women. With the $10,000 grant, matched with a community contribution of funds and labour, the village purchased a grain grinder and grain cleaner they use to produce high quality cow feed. Photo Credit: UN Women/David Snyder

This week, UN Women celebrates three days which reflect women's key role in development, beginning with International Day for Rural Women on 15 October, World Food Day on 16 October, and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October.

Gender inequality and limited access to credit, healthcare and education have posed a number of challenges for rural women. Meanwhile, the global food and economic crisis and climate change have only aggravated the situation. Some 925 million people go hungry every day.

In many parts of the world, tradition dictates that women eat last, after all the male members and children have been fed. Women are also strong contributors to the economy, and form a large proportion of the agricultural work force globally. They can do much more given equal resources. FAO estimates if women farmers (43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries) have the same access as men to agricultural resources, this could increase production on women's farms in developing countries by 20-30 per cent, and potentially reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million people.

“Empowering rural women is crucial for ending hunger and poverty. By denying women rights and opportunities, we deny their children and societies a better future. This is why the United Nations recently launched a programme to empower rural women and enhance food security, said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message for the International Day of Rural Women.

UN launches new programme to empower rural women and girls

WFP, FAO, IFAD and UN Women are launching a joint programme to empower poor rural women through economic integration and food security initiatives. In this video message, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet emphasizes how the economic empowerment of rural women will help lift them out of poverty and bolster food security. Read more»

Feature stories

The following stories reflect some of the work that UN Women and its partners are doing to improve sustainable development, gender equality and women's economic empowerment.

From home-makers to network leaders: women bringing change in rural communities
Two women in Mali are taking on leadership roles in their communities and training others after participating in a pilot programme. Read more»

Mona Saad: An Egyptian domestic worker's journey to leadership
From the slums of Cairo, the story of one woman who overcame stigma and is now energizing fellow domestic workers across the country to unionize and lobby the government. Read more»

Rural Women in Bolivia Make Their Demands Heard, and Their Presence Felt
Supported by UN Women's Fund for Gender Equality an alliance of 12 social women's organizations has spearheaded a project to amplify Bolivian women's voices during the lawmaking process, following the drafting of a new constitution in 2009. Read more»

Expanding jobs for rural women in India
In India, a two-year programme, supported by UN Women's Fund for Gender Equality, is tackling the feminization of poverty and hunger among Dalit women, connecting them with their rights while increasing their control over earnings and decision-making. Read more»

Information bureaus offer new opportunities for rural women in Moldova
Information about safe, healthy employment can be scarce for Moldova's women, especially for those living in its large rural areas. Yet a new series of help centres have broadened the path of women to choice, and to change. Read more»

Green cook stoves improving women's lives in Ghana
UN Women's Fund for Gender Equality is supporting two Ghanaian non-governmental organizations in providing women with green cook stoves that will improve both their health and environment. Read more»

Rural Women Take on a New Role in Delivering Services in Tajikistan
A new social protection programme for rural areas has brought together Tajik women to help make their communities operate more sustainably. Read more»

Safer spaces and better markets in the Pacific islands
In Pacific states, women market vendors are reclaiming and redesigning their markets to be safer, healthier and more sustainable. Read more»

Binga women in Zimbabwe make history on the Zambezi River
Zimbabwe's first female fishing rig operators are making history, while reclaiming their health, livelihoods and access to the water. Read more»

Rural women learn modern irrigation technology in China
As climate change impacts agrarian communities, women are taking on more agricultural responsibilities. Learn how a project in China is training rural women to lead, using advanced water-saving technology. Read more»

Women Farmers Yield Profits and Better Futures in Rural Rwanda
After increasing the participation of women in farmer's cooperatives, a rural Rwandan community has seen its productivity rise. Read more»

Photo essays

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
Poverty has a woman's face. Extreme poverty perpetuates a cycle of violence and discrimination against women and girls, and gender based inequality and violence continues to keep millions of women and girls in poverty and social exclusion. On the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, check out the Say NO-UNiTE photo essay dedicated to ending poverty, discrimination and violence against women and girls:

\ Child marriage is a fundamental human rights violation and impacts all aspects of a girl's life.... The earnings of Bangladesh's female migrant workers account for roughly 13 per cent of its GDP. In the largest agriculture-based countries of the Pacific region, women market vendors have long been keeping their families and communities afloat Tajikistan's district task forces have become a key resource in helping vulnerable citizens, particularly rural women More than two years since the devastating earthquake, Haiti's women and girls are living in increased violence and poverty Beer promoters in Phnom Penh have come together as a group to advocate for the rights and safety of women Poverty

A Day in the Life of a Rural Woman Milk Collector
UN Women beneficiary Galima Muhametarimovna milks her cows each morning in her village in Kyrgyzstan's Kemin district, contributing the milk to a local Milk Collection Center. The income from the milk is an important boost to her family food security, and has been bolstered greatly since the community used a grant through the UN Women Project to buy cooler tanks for a local milk collection station. See her day in action in the photo slideshow :

Galima Muhametarimovna leads a calf to its mother on her small farm Galima Muhametarimovna cleans a bucket before milking one of her four cows in her yard Galima Muhametarimovna collects five to six liters per day of milk Galima Muhametarimovna collects five to six liters per day of milk Galima Muhametarimovna collects five to six liters per day of milk Galima Muhametarimovna collects five to six liters per day of milk Galima Muhametarimovna milks her cows each morning, contributing the milk to a local Milk Collection Center Galima Muhametarimovna and her son prepare the milk they collected from the family cows for a milk collection truck Galima Muhametarimovna and her son strain the milk they collected from the family cows before the arrival of a milk collection truck Galima Muhametarimovna and her son prepare the milk they collected from the family cows to be measured for its fat content A worker from the Ak Zhalga Milk Collection Station in the village of Altymysh, Kyrgyzstan, measures the fat content of milk produced by cows A worker from the Ak Zhalga Milk Collection Station in the village of Altymysh, Kyrgyzstan, measures the fat content of milk produced by cows Galima Muhametarimovna and her family look on as a worker from the Ak Zhalga Milk Collection Station in the village of Altymysh, Kyrgyzstan, records her daily contribution of milk Galima Muhametarimovna prepares to deliver milk A worker from the Ak Zhalga Milk Collection Station in the village of Altymysh, Kyrgyzstan, collects milk

Lighting up lives: Training women to become “barefoot solar engineers
Barefoot College in Tilonia, India, running since 2004, teaches engineering skills to illiterate older women from rural communities - a particularly vulnerable group worldwide - before equipping them with solar lamp kits to assemble and install in their own and nearby villages. By collaborating with Barefoot College and its NGO partners, UN Women is supporting a programme to empower marginalized women across the world, and help them start to drive their local green economies. See their work in the photo slideshow:

Solar engineering trainer, Barefoot College, India Solar engineering student from Liberia Solar engineering empowers rural women Gertrude from Malawi tests one of her solar lights Women work together on solar lighting circuit boards Sofia from Tanzania shows her solar technology notebook New African solar technicians, each ready to electrify her home village for the first time Solar engineering student from Malawi, training in India Participants from Liberia and Malawi at the end of their six-month solar engineering course

Join the conversation

Join the conversation on Twitter [EN; SP; FR] and Facebook [EN; SP; FR], and share your thoughts using the hashtags #RuralWomen, #WFD2012 and #EndPoverty.

UN agencies and partners are teaming up for a one-day social media action to raise awareness of MDG successes and push for achievement of the Goals by 2015. We invite NGOs and the public to re-post, re-Tweet, or donate their Facebook and/or Twitter profiles through the Thunderclap application, to engage followers in the fight against poverty and support for the MDGs, and to spread the message that ending poverty is possible. The website for the one-day action, www.endpoverty2015.org , will be customized specifically for the Day, with language options in the six UN official languages.