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Importance of rural women celebrated

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Women around the world observed International Day of Rural Women on October 15. 

The United Nations (UN) established the day in 2007 to recognize “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 often are the primary providers of food and sustenance for their families, often working in situations of poverty and adapting to their environments with new agricultural techniques.

World Vision cites numerous examples of women starting up new agricultural practices and implementing new methods of production in order to sustain their families and communities.

For example, Northern Bangladeshi women have joined together to weave and sell saris, sarongs, bedsheets and towels using a new time-saving machine.

Women in western Afghanistan are beekeeping and producing the region’s first honey. Yadha is one such woman. With the 12 pounds a kilo she earns, she can send her children to school.

To mark the achievements of rural women, nations around the world organized festivals, workshops and other events around the theme “the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication.”

In Islamabad, Pakistan, Lok Virsa, the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, collaborated with the Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (PODA) to arrange a 2-day workshop featuring female artisans at work, a seminar on women’s issues, audio/visual displays and a folk music performance.

The Minister for Women’s Development, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Begum Zakia Shahnawaz, advisor to the Punjab’s chief minister, were among those attending.

Lok Virsa’s executive director, Khalid Javaid, said: “We were the first cultural organisation in Pakistan that stood behind PODA and supported them in organising a number of cultural and promotional activities to mark the International Rural Women’s Day.”

“This joint strategy has resulted in highlighting achievements of rural women in the development of the country not only at national, but at international level, too.”

In Rwanda, the vice-president of the National Women’s Council, Marie Rose Ndejeje, challenged women to work towards improving their social status and avoid dependency on male family members for survival.

She said the country needed strong women who can contribute actively to the development of their families and the country.

ActionAid Rwanda donated six Friesian cows and 14 pigs to local families as a way to boost rural women’s social conditions and economic security.

Josephine Uwamariya, ActionAid Rwanda representative, said: “We hope that these animals will help change the lives of the beneficiaries for the better.”

Ms Uwamariya added that poverty eradication is important for strengthening families and improving the position of women in society.

Women in the Philippines had three major activities scheduled: a forum on the land rights of marginalized women, a national search for outstanding rural women, and a women’s market.

Fiji marked the day with a workshop for women market sellers, the aim of of which was to help them improve sales and marketing of their produce. About 300 women took part.

Ba Town Council Administrator Arun Kumar said the UNWomen-organized workshop “educates these market vendors on the importance of their crops — how they can improve their produce, how they can market it, and how they can manage it.”

“Essentially, they are being trained to become better at what they do. They are being taught basically how to maximise their resources as well as increase their awareness of agriculture and the role women play,” he explained.

Tevola Lewatabe, the president of Ba Women’s Rural Association, said that women played a major role in local agriculture.

“Reducing gender inequality and recognising the contribution women make to agriculture is critical to achieving global food security,” she added.

In London, the National Alliance of Women’s Organizations (NAWO) in conjunction with Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) held a summit at the House of Lords entitled “What universal rights do rural women share?”

Chaired by Baroness Verma, the event included speakers from the two hosting organizations and a representative from UNWomen.

The aim was to address the human rights of all rural women, consensus build without ignoring the different challenges rural women face, and the look at the feasibility of producing a draft charter of rural women’s rights.

While these events addressed the specific situations of the rural women in each of the countries, they all acknowledged the value of rural women to economic and food security and the need to maximize their empowerment.

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