UN: rights of rural women and girls for peaceful, healthy world


The UN’s International Day of Rural Women, is marked every year on 15 October to highlight their critical role and contribution to agricultural and rural development, in improving food security and in eradicating rural poverty.

By Robin Gomes

The United Nations chief is calling on the world to ensure the full rights of rural women and girls saying their empowerment will ensure a peaceful future and a healthy planet for all.  


“The empowerment of rural women and girls is essential to building a prosperous, equitable and peaceful future for all on a healthy planet,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a message for the October 15 International Day of Rural Women.  

He said this is needed for “achieving gender equality, ensuring decent work for all, eradicating poverty and hunger and taking climate action.”  “Yet,” he lamented that “rural women and girls remain disproportionately affected by poverty, inequality, exclusion and the effects of climate change.”

The International Day of Rural Women was established by the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2007, in recognition of the “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”  The first observance was marked on 15 October 2008. 

This year’s observance has as its theme: “Sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”.

Human rights

In his message, Guterres called on countries to take action to ensure that rural women and girls fully enjoy their human rights.  Some of these rights, he said, include: the right to land and security of land tenure; to adequate food and nutrition; to a life free of all forms of violence, discrimination and harmful practices; to the highest attainable standard of health; and to quality, affordable and accessible education throughout their lives.

The UN Secretary-General said this requires investment, legal and policy reforms and the inclusion of rural women in the decisions that affect their lives. By investing in the well-being, livelihoods and resilience of rural women and girls, he said, we make progress for all.

Daily challenges

In a separate message, UN Women, the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, also noted that rural women and girls in most countries face daily challenges in accessing sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection.  This calls for change so that they challenges no longer dominate and constrain women’s and girls’ lives.

UN Women underscored the importance of rural women who make up a quarter of the world’s population, saying they grow most of the world’s food, strengthen economies and build climate resilience.

Rural women also make up 43% of the agricultural work force in developing countries and are responsible for water collection in 80% of households that have no access to safe drinking water, yet their long and hard labour is informal, poorly paid and with poor security and safety.

UN Women thus called 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.

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