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.

2 thoughts on “International Day for Rural Women”

  1. Happy International Day of Rural Women, Huaxuan!

    It is great that you have shone a light on this. Rural women are central to regaining our planet’s health and the work they do is essential to support human life. I agree that it would be good if their tasks could be made easier in a sustainable way with technology, whilst supporting their local traditions.

    I also agree that the hard work of rural women and girls should be recognised more. For example, we have farming in our family and my uncles are all very inspiring but men get a lot more recognition for their hard work farming than the farmers’ wives who do just as much and the domestic care work on top! Together, these women and men work wonders taking care of their animals and the land, preserving areas of outstanding natural beauty for generations ahead, adapting to new, diversified (and often back to traditional) ways of farming, working on conserving and rebuilding hedgerows, developing climate resistance, rural enterprise, countryside stewardship involving woodland preservation and re-creation, protecting water courses, and saving wildlife. Sustainable agriculture should be viewed as the life-sustaining heartbeat of science. I feel that everyone who works in sustainable agriculture should be celebrated and it shouldn’t just be men or those who have studied at university who are afforded higher status or recognised as scientists in this field.

    It is essential for girls in rural areas worldwide to have access to realise their educational dreams because that will benefit their communities longer term as communities rally to resist Climate Change. In the UK for example, farming girls have extra pressures in addition to the extra work to help out at home because they usually face a much longer bus journey to school and back, particularly for secondary education, with many village schools having been closed or being threatened with closure. This also takes them out of their closer knit communities and isn’t helping the fabric and cohesion of rural life. In East Bali, there are huge pressures on women and girls in farming as the land is quite arid there, and education, if any, is capped at Grade 6 for many still, with secondary schools at a considerable distance.

    Just what the rural communities are up against in the UK is evidenced here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/04/britain-wildlife-cuts-brexit

    In developing regions, such as East Bali, women in rural areas are also essential in developing the health of their communities, such as Kadek Indah, who is raising awareness of Iodine Deficiency Disorder: https://www.eastbalipovertyproject.org/reports-from-the-field-kadek-indah-local-health-staff/

  2. Hi, my name is Joanne and I think I can relate to your post in some ways. I have to get up early every most morning’s to go to school and when school finishes most people get to go home and relax whereas I have to go straight to the farm to take care of all the animals, I would like to say that I think I work pretty hard to take care of everything of course with the help from my mother. When I am at school, because we usually go to check the animals twice a day my mum has to care for everything by herself because everyone else is either at work or school, so I think it must be pretty hard to take car of of all the animals and everything else by yourself and we aren’t paid for the the time we put into it. But I’m used to it because I have done this everyday for as long as I can remember. But to be honest I love it and I love being surrounded by animals. My Mum finds it hard sometimes because she can’t get much help apart from when I get back from school, but she loves it too and she says she couldn’t think of anything she would rather do.

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