Countries need to act to ensure women and girls living in rural areas can enjoy their human rights
by Civil Society Mechanism on Food Security, agencies
15 Oct. 2018
Rural women speak out at UN food security plenary: ‘After a decade of celebrating International Rural Women’s Day we are still denied our rights’. Report from the Civil Society Mechanism for relations to the UN Committee on World Food Security.
Women farmers, fishers, pastoralists, agriculture workers and indigenous smallholders have been feeding their communities for centuries but remain largely invisible in the world of agriculture.
To celebrate International Day of Rural Women today at the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) Plenary in Rome, a panel of experts on food security, representing women’s grassroots organisations have come together to share their experiences, struggles and demands.
The panel event was organised by the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples Mechanism (CSM) of the CFS, a platform that brings together organisations working on food and nutrition and producers, who represent more than 380 million members across the world.
Introducing the session, Ruchi Tripathi, chair of the panel and head of resilient livelihoods and climate justice at ActionAid International, spoke about the importance of recognising the multiple identities and unique struggles of rural women.
Several of the panellists pointed out that there were policies and laws on women’s rights, including recommendation 34 on the rights of rural women set out by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. But that these were not being put into practice.
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Hilal Elver, spoke about the gap between law and implementation. “The law does not get all the way to villages, or fisherfolk or indigenous peoples,” she said.
Panellist Christina Louwa, from the World Forum of Fisher Peoples, said: “It is a shame that after a decade of celebrating International Rural Women’s Day, we are still making the same demands and are yet to fully access and enjoy those rights.
“Women in small-scale fishing communities and indigenous women are the pillars and backbone of their communities and play a key role in contributing to the nourishment and food security of their families and communities. Their lives and livelihoods, and those of their communities, are threatened by both factors such as ocean, lakes, land and natural resources-grabbing, privatisation, exclusion, marginalisation, rape and sexual harassment.”
She called on governments to engage women in fishing communities and indigenous women and their representatives in decision-making at all levels.
Iridiani Seibert, from La Via Campesina and coordinator of the CSM’s women’s group, also reflected on a decade of celebrating International Day of Rural Women, highlighting the centrality of ‘agroecology for the realisation of women’s rights.
However, spoke of her disappointment on hearing that rural women were almost not included in the opening plenary of the World Food Security summit on International Day of Rural Women: “It’s very painful for us to see that we almost had three men speaking during the opening ceremony and no rural woman.”
Women make up nearly half of the world’s 500 million family farmers who produce 80% of the world food. But they are also most affected by rising global hunger, some 60% of the 821 million people who are not getting enough to eat as thought to be women.
As large-scale industrial agriculture spreads, rural women are being dispossessed, and their knowledge of sustainable food production methods is being lost.
Panel member Azra Sayeed, from the International Women’s Alliance, Pakistan, said the most critical demand for governments meeting this week is equitable distribution of land.
“Without land women are forced into various forms of exploitative labour,” she said. “We also demand public funds to be provided so that agroecological agriculture maybe promoted and practiced.
“Women demand food sovereignty as that allows small producers, especially women to be at the centre of decision making, a process that will allow landless agricultural women workers to build a sustainable society, now and for our future generations.”
Speaker Paulomee Mistry, representing the International Union of Food and Agriculture Workers, spoke about the need to pay a living wage to agriculture workers, and to reduce the pay gap between men and women workers.
She spoke about the experiences of women working on tea plantations in India where women make up 80% of the workforce, but just 1% of supervisors, meaning they face violence and harassment at work. They face low wages, a lack of job security, leaving them socially, economically and physically vulnerable.
Maria Teresa Alvarez shared the experiences of Argentinian women pastoralists. She said communities were drastically affected by land-grabbing and a reduction in space for their traditional farming practices. Meanwhile, highly processed foods were being introduced, particularly in schools, which are harming people’s health.
Speaking after the session, ActionAid’s Ruchi Tripathi said: “It’s clear from the experiences of these women that there can be no solution to rising world hunger without restoring the rights of women and rural communities over natural resources, and investing in climate resilient ‘agroecology’ farming, which builds on their knowledge.”
Marking International Day of Rural Women, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called on countries to ensure that women and girls living in rural areas can enjoy their human rights.
“The empowerment of rural women and girls is essential to building a prosperous, equitable and peaceful future for all on a healthy planet,” he said, stressing that “it is needed for achieving gender equality, ensuring decent work for all, eradicating poverty and hunger and taking climate action”.
Rural women make up 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, in work that is often informal and poorly paid, offering little access to social protection or income security.
As child labour is common in the countryside, girls form a significant part of the agricultural workforce. This means rural women and girls remain disproportionately affected by poverty, inequality, exclusion and the effects of climate change.
“I call on countries to take action to ensure that rural women and girls fully enjoy their human rights,” said Mr. Guterres, explaining that that includes the right to land and security of land tenure; to adequate food and nutrition and a life free of all forms of violence, discrimination and harmful practices. He added that every woman and girl should expect the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health; and has a right to quality, affordable and accessible education.
Women and girls are responsible for water collection and fuel collection in most rural households without access to drinking water or electricity. The arduous journey often takes several hours, poses many safety risks and hampers their ability to get an education or make a living.
In addition, cooking with unclean fuels can result in long-term and even fatal health problems for women, said Mr. Guterres. In countries that rely heavily on fuels like coal, wood, manure or crop waste for cooking, women account for 6 out of every 10 premature deaths through household air pollution.
Improving the lives of women and girls in rural areas requires “legal and policy reforms” and their inclusion in the decisions that affect their lives, the UN chief stressed that “by investing in their well-being, livelihoods and resilience, we make progress for all”.
UN Women statement on the International Day of Rural Women
In most countries around the world, rural women and girls face daily challenges of access to sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection. The ubiquity of these challenges offers a large scope for change so that they no longer dominate and constrain women’s and girls’ lives.
Rural women make up 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, in work that is time- and labour-intensive, informal and poorly paid, with little social protection or income security. Child labour is prevalent in rural areas, with girls forming a significant part of the agricultural workforce.
Women and girls are responsible for water collection in 80 per cent of households without access to safe drinking water. This work is arduous and will only become harder as water shortages increase. The journey to collect water also poses safety risks. Without adequate water and sanitation facilities, women and girls are exposed to illness, violence and other risks to their safety. These deficits also hamper their ability to get a good education, earn an income and move around freely.
Fuel collection, which can take as much as five hours every day, and cooking with unclean fuels can result in long-term and even fatal health problems for women. In countries that rely heavily on fuels like coal, wood, manure or crop waste for cooking, women account for 6 out of every 10 premature deaths through household air pollution.
Sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection are central to progress. Measures to improve their delivery can bring both immediate relief and lifelong benefits. For instance, enhanced access to safe drinking water and sanitation brings gains in girls’ education when children stay longer in school, as well as increases in women’s paid work to generate goods and provide services. Extending the reach of water grids and continuous piped drinking water to rural communities is therefore an important priority with multiple benefits.
Rural women’s civil society organizations, enterprises and cooperatives are critical in mobilizing rural women, supporting their voice, agency and representation in political and economic spheres, and enabling them to influence the decisions and institutions that affect their lives.
Around the world, rural women have mobilized to secure water for irrigation and household use, and renewable energy for lighting their homes and powering small businesses. Resourcefully, rural women’s cooperatives are providing childcare services for and by their members. But small-scale solutions are not enough. They must be joined by large-scale institutional initiatives that invest in a different future, in which women and girls participate and benefit equally to men and boys.
On the International Day of Rural Women, UN Women calls upon the international community to work with rural women and girls everywhere and to invest in the sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection that can revolutionize their livelihoods, well-being and resilience. http://bit.ly/2Pw1pNb
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The 13 worst refugee crises for girls
by CARE International
Refugees are uniquely vulnerable. But refugee girls doubly so. When extreme violence, hunger or climate drives them from their homes, they are the first to be trafficked for sex or child labor; the first to be exploited as tools of war; and the first to lose their childhoods. Meanwhile, they are the last to be fed, the last to be enrolled in school and, too often, the last to be valued.
More than 17 Million Girls have been Displaced amid the Global Refugee Crisis
The United Nations created the first International Day of the Girl in 2012 to highlight challenges for girls globally and promote girls’ empowerment. The official theme for this year — empowering girls in crisis — comes amid an epidemic of human displacement that has forced 68.5 million people from their homes, including more than 17 million girls.
So here we list the 13 worst refugee crises for girls that have mushroomed since the UN created that special day for girls 6 years ago. The crises are ranked in order of total girls displaced, both across national borders as refugees and within their countries as “internally displaced people,” or IDPs.
For each crisis, we detail a specific threat while highlighting the courage and resilience of girls who are confronting that challenge and, in many cases, overcoming it. Unfortunately, the threats are many. Teenage girls who don’t even have access to menstrual pads are sometimes forced to sell food rations to pay for them.
And in crises, the global scourge of gender-based violence grows even worse for girls. At the same time, families and authorities must prioritize near-term survival over the long-term benefits that education, skills training and good health care bring. Child marriage rates soar. School attendance plummets. Especially for girls.
But while far from home, displaced girls are far from helpless. They are strong, smart, resilient, courageous and determined to break through the barriers holding them back, despite staring down some of the most difficult circumstances on Earth.
Refugee girls are capable of amazing feats, especially if they have the right tools and support. So be sure to check out the end of the report and learn how you can help girls who, unlike most of us, don’t have the good fortune to live in the place they call home.
* Access the report Far from Home: http://care.exposure.co/far-from-home
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