Rural women are vital to the development of societies and economies; their selfless contributions, such as taking care of the household and harvesting crops have been key factors in the creation of stable communities. Yet, their efforts are rarely recognized, and they do not have the same resources and opportunities that their male counterparts have. Despite this, worldwide sustainability and development would not be possible without rural women. Therefore, actions should be taken in order to empower rural women, enhance their quality of life, and consequently, improve the global economy.

Rural women make up more than a quarter of the world’s total population, and they are key contributors to agricultural production, food security, climate advocacy, enterprise, and citizenship. But, the absence of education, healthcare, and equality have taken a toll on their productivity and the welfare of their households.

41% of the global agricultural workforce is made up of rural women. They are responsible for most subsistence agriculture and they sell their yield for a small price. On the other hand, men usually focus on cash crops and make more profit. This can be explained by the traditional belief that women should only take care of the household and nothing else. To combat this stereotype, women need to have a proper education in entrepreneurship skills in order to know their rights, make the most out of their abilities, and feel more in control of their families’ incomes. This can be achieved by expanding the network of female entrepreneurs in rural areas and offering simple workshops for these women. By setting up small spaces for women to network in, they will be able to discuss the needs of their community and improve their skills by learning from each other. In addition to that, offering workshops will increase women’s awareness of the business industry and the rules and regulation that accompany it, and it will provide rural women with more confidence and push them to achieve their goals.

Women in developing countries are more prone to various health issues, and since they are usually poor, they often lack health insurance and travel long distances to reach the nearest hospital. This makes healthcare hard to access and leads to high death rates among rural residents. Therefore, healthcare should be made more accessible to rural women regarding both cost and location. That can be achieved by granting appropriate financial aid, providing transportation services and fighting the stigma that rural women feel towards healthcare.

Inequality is one of the major challenges that women encounter worldwide. For instance, most rural women face more difficulty then men in accessing public services, social protection, employment and markets due to cultural norms, security issues and lack of identification documents. Because of these constrains and the sexual discrimination that rural women face, their work remains undervalued and unseen. As a result, they are prone to unacceptable forms of work and sexual harassment. Urgent action is needed in order to protect women from exploitation and to make sure that their voices are heard. An effective way to empower women is to implement social protection policies which are tailored specifically for rural women, such as active labor market policies (ALMP), flexible health insurance policies, and gender-responsive policies. This way, women will have more access to resources and will be able to properly take care of their households and businesses.

 Empowered women are able to effectively lead their households and positively contribute to their communities. Therefore, in order to meet global goals, organizations should create and effectively implement laws to support rural women, and policy makers should also keep in mind the cultural and gender-sensitive factors that might affect the implementation of new laws.

Author

Salma is a high school junior living in the capital of Saudi Arabia. She enjoys exploring the world and pushing herself outside of her comfort zone. She's also a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and the winner of the Superheros of STEM writing contest.

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