The origin of the international day for rural women can be traced back to 1995, 4th world conference of United Nations (UN) on women. However, the UN took around 12 years to declare 15th October as the International Day of Rural Women.
This day mainly recognises the role of rural women, embraces and celebrates how rural women are playing a vital role in the world economy. It is a day when their critical contributions are recognised and awareness is spread among people about how they form the backbone of the rural society.
Significantly, rural women cover above a quarter of the total world population and denote around 43% of the agricultural labour force (UN Report). Specifically in Bangladesh, around 80% of the women live in rural areas.
This write-up mainly aims to address rural women’s contribution to a country’s overall economy and their involvement in triumph of the economic development goals.
In Bangladesh, rural women make huge contribution to producing, processing and preparing for their own livelihood and of others. They play multi-tier responsibilities within and beyond the confines of their household work. We often see that rural women are coming with innovative ideas in agriculture and farming; they are making choices as to which crops and what time is best for cultivation.
Women’s contribution to our national development is not always recognised adequately. They have been considered as inferior to men almost always and in every sphere of society. We do not portray the facts that women can contribute much more than men if they are provided with equal resources.
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) calculates that if women farmers (43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries) had the same access as men, agricultural output in 34 developing countries would rise by an expected average of up to 4%. This could reduce the number of undernourished people in those countries by as much as 17%, reducing to approximately 150 million hungry people.
Further, rural women’s often participate in tending animals, processing and preparing food, collecting water, caring for family members and maintaining homes. Surprisingly, many of these activities are not defined as ‘economically active employment’ in national accounts (ESA Working Paper 2011). Without any doubt, these activities should be recognised fully and considered as essentials for economic growth.
Thus, given the large presence in the agricultural workforce, rural women’s empowerment is inevitable to keep the overall economic productivity steady. Rural agrarian women should be studied and recognised as thinkers and visionaries, who play a momentous role in handling rural level farming and other agricultural
Yet, unfortunately, we often see that, rural women encounter enormous challenges including limited access to health care, education, restriction in obtaining credit, and they receive lowermost wages for their labour.
Therefore, we should acknowledge that, rural women’s access to productive agricultural resources is central to decreasing world hunger, poverty, and other economic challenges. Hence, NGOs and other stakeholders should listen to the rural women and should find out more about how they can redefine their actions with the help of advanced modern technology and resources. They also should launch different programmes to empower them and should ensure women’s participation in every sphere of the society so that they can raise their voices as decision-makers and propel a sustainable economic development.
Rizwana Naznin, a researcher of international law and human rights; can be reached at: email@example.com