Posted on October 18, 2018
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“The empowerment of rural women and girls is essential to building a prosperous, equitable and peaceful future for all on a healthy planet.”
— UN Secretary-General, António Guterres
…International day of Rural Women
The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Rural Women celebrates and honours the role of rural women on October 15 each year. Today across the globe, women working in rural locations remain disproportionately affected by poverty and inequality. Female farmers are less able to access agricultural resources, land and markets. Even when they do access these, much of their labour remains invisible and they are lower paid than men.
They not only face inequality in their work, rural women and girls also lack equal access to basic services such as education and health care. However, there impact on issues of health and sanitation within the home is significant, notwithstanding their lack of access to necessary infrastructure. In rural Africa for example, it is the woman and her children that you often see going out with buckets to fetch water, wherever this can be found, which is used for cooking, drinking and for the other needs of the family. Rural women play a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing. Women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labour force, including informal work, and perform the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work within families and households in rural areas.
This year’s theme, “sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”, places empowerment of rural women at the heart of fulfilling the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It resonates strongly with the work ACT has been doing in the empowerment of rural women in Africa over the past 20 years.
In addition to educating disadvantaged fatherless children and orphans, our second core objective at ACT is empowering women (particularly widows) through counselling, literacy and skills training to enable them generate income in a sustainable way so that they can support their families. In rural communities we support them with income-generating activities such as providing them with animals including pigs, goats or cattle for rearing.
Honoratus Ndaula, ACT Director in Tanzania, explains how widowed mothers in Kagera region in North West Tanzania, use the animal offspring as income generating resource. Furthermore, after the second set of births, the third offspring are donated to other vulnerable families in their villages. By this approach, ACT support for one widow with an animal enables her to feed her family, provide her an income, and then support the community as a whole.
In Burkina Faso, ACT educates rural women on inheritance rights, HIV awareness, sanitation and health as well as business skills training. In Malawi, our focus is to keep vulnerable girls in school to reduce early child marriage which has a huge impact on the high dropout rate from education before the age of 18 years. We counsel school girls through our “girl shower” programme on menstrual health management and provide them with re-useable menstrual pads. This is the focus of our Ulemu Project – Dignity for women and girls (Ulemu means dignity in Chichewa language).
By investing in the well-being, livelihoods and resilience of rural women and girls, ACT is contributing to the empowerment of rural women in Africa. For us it isn’t about marking this important day once each year, it is about twenty years of work, dedication and investment to make a difference in the lives of rural African women.
You can support our efforts to provide dignity for girls and rural women by donating to our Ulemu Project. To find our more click Ulemu Project.