U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Susan E. Rice today discussed why the empowerment of rural women is vital to global development at the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
“Growing evidence shows that investing in women is not only the right thing to do – it is the smart thing to do.” -Ms. Rice
U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton once said that to achieve the economic expansion globally, countries need to unlock a vital source of growth that can power economies in the decades to come. And that vital source of growth is women.
In rural economies of which 70 percent of the world’s poor depend, women play potential role not only to help drive economic growth but also to help solve the crucial development challenges, from food security to sustainable energy to global health.
“It is for this reason that the United States champions the advancement of rural women across a wide range of policies in key areas.” -Ms. Rice
In terms of food security, women are a sizable part of the world’s agricultural workforce and comprises the majority in dozens of countries.
Rural women manage almost everything from caring for children and families, preparing meals and managing households to procuring water and firewood.
However, many rural women lack access to the capital, property, education and physical security that are essential to unlocking their potential.
Reports say women receive fewer and smaller loans than men do, and lack equal access to seeds, tools, and fertilizer.
Ms. Rice highlighted that closing the gender gap in agriculture would generate significant gains.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, providing women equal access to productive resources could raise total agricultural output in developing countries can reduce the number of hungry by 100 to 150 million people worldwide.
“That is why women are central to the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future.” -Ms. Rice
In Kenya, the United States is tailoring agriculture extension services to fit women’s schedules and training women in leadership and business development.
In Uganda, the United States is working with partners to implement a women-led “community connector” program that addresses nutrition, sanitation, and agriculture in an integrated way, according to Ms. Rice.
Recently, the United States is piloting new tools to measure gender-specific results,including an innovative “Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index” which was recently launched at the CSW.
Ms. Rice stresses that rural women also have significant potential to contribute to sustainable energy solutions.
The United States is building a global market for clean cookstoves and there is a need to involve women at every step in order to increase adoption rates and generate new economic opportunities.
“Women can drive global health outcomes, and unlocking the potential of rural women requires focusing on the health needs of women and girls.” -Ms. Rice
Obama Administration’s Global Health Initiative (GHI) key priority is the Women, Girls, and Gender Equality Principle, which aims to redress gender imbalances related to health.
“Finally, women and girls should be at the forefront of our common efforts to combat violence, abuse and discrimination, with special attention to lesbian and transgender women, ethnic minorities, and the displaced, who are among the most vulnerable.” -Ms. Rice
According to UN, the world’s rural women also play a crucial role in efforts to restore drylands. Rural women can manage natural resources and the disempowering constraints they face while dealing with desertification of land.
On October 2011, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet International Day of Rural Women reminded the world of the huge contributions that rural women make to social and economic progress and in the fight against poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. She highlighted that as nations struggle with food security, it is time, more so than ever, to empower rural women.