Investing in rural women will slash hunger and poverty, Ban says

14 October 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on the international community to give rural women the same access to productive resources as men, noting the huge benefits that would ensue, from increased food production to a drop of 150 million in the number of the world’s hungry people.

“Despite the heavy responsibility rural women shoulder, they lack equal access to opportunities and resources,” he said ahead of tomorrow’s celebration of the International Day of Rural Women. “This hampers their advancement and holds all people back.

He cited UN Food and Agr100 million people could be lifted out of poverty if rural women had the same access to productive resources as meniculture Organization (FAO) studies showing that over 100 million people could be lifted out of poverty if rural women had the same access to productive resources as men. Productivity on women’s farms would increase up to 30 per cent and the number of hungry people would drop by as much as 17 per cent, which translates into improvements for up to 150 million individuals.

Currently the number of hungry people worldwide is estimated at around 1 billion.

“The benefits would reverberate even further as these women’s children gain better access to health services, education and nutrition,” Mr. Ban said. “We know how to achieve these gains: invest in rural women; eliminate discrimination against them in law and in practice; ensure that policies respond to their needs; give them equal access to resources; provide rural women with a role in decision-making.”

“These measures will help drive sustainable development – one of the great imperatives of the twenty-first century. As we prepare for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held next year in Rio, let us remember that rural women have enormous untapped potential to generate results.”

He noted that study after study has demonstrated that rural women are pivotal to addressing hunger, malnutrition and poverty, as farmers and nurturers, entrepreneurs and educators, healers and helpers who can contribute to food security and economic growth in the world’s most remote and vulnerable settings.

General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser also stressed the critical contribution of rural women in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty, and called on Member States, the UN system and civil society to continue their efforts to improve their living conditions and quality of life and help them achieve sustainable development.

“More needs to be done to harness the contribution of rural women to development,” he said. “Currently there is a gender gap in agriculture, linked to women’s weaker access to land rights, modern technologies and financing. If women farmers had stronger legal rights and greater business opportunities, millions of people would be better fed.”

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