Women play a critical role in the rural economies of both developed and developing countries. In many parts of the world,
agriculture is the first sector of employment for women, for instance in Sub-Saharan Africa and in South Asia, where respectively 68 per cent and 61 per cent of working women are employed in agriculture . Rural women, mainly farmers, are at least 1.6 billion and represent more than a quarter of the total world population. Women produce on average more than half of all the food that is grown: up to 80 per cent in Africa, 60 per cent in Asia, between 30 and 40 per cent in Latin America and Western countries. Women own only 2 per cent of the land, and receive only one per cent of all agricultural credit. Only 5 per cent of all agricultural extension resources are directed to women. Women represent two third of all illiterate people. The number of rural women living in poverty has doubled since 1970. The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Rural Women directs attention to both the contribution that women make in rural areas and the many challenges that they face. It also celebrates and honours the role of rural women on October 15 each year. It recognizes rural women’s importance in enhancing agricultural and rural development worldwide.
The International Day of Rural Women was first celebrated as an official UN observance on October 15, 2008. This day recognizes the role of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty. The idea of honouring rural women with a special day was put forward at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995. It was suggested that October 15 be celebrated as “World Rural Women’s Day,” which is the eve of World Food Day, to highlight rural women’s role in food production and food security. “World Rural Women’s Day” was previously celebrated across the world for more than a decade before it was officially a UN observance.
Many people, government agencies, community groups and non-government associations celebrate the International Day of Rural Women on October 15 every year. Television, radio, online, and print media broadcast or publish special features to promote the day. Panel discussions, research papers, and conferences are also held to review and analyse rural women’s role in society, particularly in areas such as economic improvement and agricultural development.
Other activities and events include:
- Global exchange programs for women in agriculture.
- The launch of fund-raising projects to support rural women.
- Expos and workshops showcasing rural women’s contribution to their societies.
- Strategic meetings to present issues on topics, such as empowering women farmers, to policy makers.