International Day of Rural Women theme: Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All
This year, the International Day of Rural Women (15 October), puts a spotlight on “Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All.”
Established by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18 December 2007, this international day recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”
Rural women and girls play essential roles in food systems – from production, to processing, preparation, consumption, and distribution of food – as well as in securing household and community nutrition. Yet, unequal power relations between women and men in the household and society, discriminatory gender norms and practices, prevalent violence against women and girls, and their disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work, result in unequal access to food and heightened experience of hunger, malnutrition, undernutrition, and food insecurity.
Despite the planet’s capacity to provide sufficient and good food for all, an increasing number of people are not getting enough food and nutrition. The COVID-19 pandemic, along with climate and environmental crises, have compounded food insecurity in many parts of the world. Significant loss of income and limited access to social protection fueled this problem: approximately 2.37 billion people did not have access to adequate food in 2020 – an increase of almost 20 per cent or 320 million people in just one year . Rural women and girls were disproportionately impacted by food insecurity.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda calls for transforming our food systems so that all people have access to healthy diets that contribute to the restoration of nature, address climate change and are adapted to local circumstances. By ensuring that rural women and girls participate in and benefit from this transformation, we can help deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, including Zero Hunger (Goal 2) and Gender Equality (Goal 5).
UN Women’s latest report, Beyond COVID-19: A feminist plan for sustainability and social justice, also echoes the call for rebuilding the broken global food system from the bottom-up. It asserts that supporting diverse and healthy food crop production for local, national and regional markets is critical to supporting rural women’s livelihoods and ensuring food security for all.
The Feminist Plan calls for strengthened partnerships between governments and civil society to scale up gender-responsive agroecology, an alternative to industrial agriculture that benefits women small-scale farmers, supports food security and protects biodiversity and ecosystems.
Rural women are leading movements, advocating for more agroecological approaches and creating local strategies for crop diversity and improved soil, water and pest management that help households increase income and food security . UN Women is supporting rural women and girls around the world to fully and equally participate in decision-making at all levels, to influence gender-responsive policy interventions, and to increase access to appropriate tools, technologies, infrastructure and institutions to build resilience and greater food security and nutrition.
In Mali and Senegal, more than 7,000 rural women were trained on climate-resilient farming practices, renewable energy, and water-efficient technologies. In Nigeria, over 2,300 rural women in agribusiness and cooperatives have been supported to increase the productivity and profitability of their operations within the rice value chain. The project is scaled to reach more than 12,500 rural women across the country. And in Uganda, UN Women has built skills and capacity of rural women working in the blue economy.
A recent evaluation of the Joint Programme on Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment, implemented by FAO, IFAD, UN Women and WFP, reconfirms that integrated approaches to supporting rural women’s livelihoods that address discriminatory social norms, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work, alongside increasing agricultural productivity, has led to enhanced food security and improved nutrition outcomes. The programme has increased the disposable income for over 80,000 rural women across seven participating countries: Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Niger, and Rwanda.
This International Day of Rural Women follows the historic first United Nations Food System Summit held in September 2021, which led to bold outcomes and multi-stakeholder commitments. Today, UN Women calls on partners everywhere to build on this momentum and galvanize efforts to advance rural women’s voice and agency, their livelihoods, rights and resilience to ensure that they can continue to cultivate good food for all.
 See for example: Oliver B. (2016). "The Earth Gives Us So Much: Agroecology and Rural Women's Leadership in Uruguay.” Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment; and Bezner Kerr R. et al,. (2019). “Participatory agroecological research on climate change adaptation improves smallholder farmer household food security and dietary diversity in Malawi.” Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment.