By: Huaxuan Chen
Women and girls play a very important role in ensuring the sustainability of their communities and improving the livelihoods of those within in it. They are vital in the agricultural labour force, unpaid care and domestic work, for food security and nutrition, land and natural resource management, and for building climate resilience.
Unfortunately, women and girls in rural areas suffer disproportionately from the effects of the climate crisis and poverty. The Sablog (Ecuador) community I worked in last summer had a 50% poverty rate. Additionally, 1 billion people continue to live in unacceptable conditions of poverty.
Upon talking to the Sumak Ahuana, a women’s group in Ecuador, they stressed the importance of economic empowerment. The women there create handicrafts for extra income, as there aren’t many other opportunities available for them to earn money. For example, one woman stressed on how she wanted to be a chef or scientist but how it was very difficult in her community. They also mentioned a project they’re initiating, which I believe is a good initiation for a solution. It’s important to mentor young rural girls and empower them with skills and opportunities so they can break the traditional cycle when they become women.
What is the main source of these issues? Structural barriers and discriminatory social norms constrain women’s decision making contribution as well as political participation; in short, women have no say on what happens around them. They lack access to productive resource and assets, essential public services such as health care and education, and they are being paid much less than men for equal work.
The 2018 theme for this day is “Sustainable infrastructure, services, and social protection for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls,” and this places empowerment of rural women at the heart of achieving the SDGs. What are the solutions to this? Essential services that millions of women and girls depend on are underfunded or unavailable. “In 2018 alone, 124 countries are expected to be cutting their budgets, eroding social protection measures and essential services on which so many rural women and girls depend.” Change is a product of political will to act and the policy tools to reallocate resources to strengthen these public services.
Finally, using technology, we can help rural women, such as Christina, who has too much on her shoulders, and make tasks easier.
Christina (on the right) had hernia and wasn’t able work, so we went to her house and helped her carry compost and grass, saving her many days of work she’d have to do alone.