The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) discussed the issues of championing the influence of rural women in developmental activities and acknowledging their contribution in accelerating the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they met on 22 April, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The meeting was to prepare for consultations that ECOSOC will hold at its High-level Segment from 28 June – 2 July 2010 on the issues of gender equality, empowerment of women, and development cooperation.
The Council organized two sessions for this preparatory meeting. The first session was on “Who Feeds the World in 2010 and Beyond: Rural women as Agents of Change and Champions of Global Food Security”, while the second explored the role of aid in mitigating the impact of the financial and economic crisis on achieving national development goals and the MDGs.
In most parts of the developing world, rural women participate in crop production and care of livestock. They also work towards providing food, water and fuel for their families, and engage in off-farm activities to diversify their families’ livelihood.
Rural women’s productive activities are often inadequately accounted for in national statistics. As a result, women’s contributions to national economies and the rural labour force are difficult to assess.
H.E. Mr. Hamidon Ali, President of ECOSOC noted in his opening statement that “it is estimated that in South East Asia, women account for 90 per cent of the labour that goes into rice cultivation.”
Mr. Ali observed that “women have only limited access to critical resources such as drinking water, electricity and access to infrastructure such as railways and roads and a large number of rural women and girls are not enrolled in school.”
“They also lack equitable access to decision-making processes meaning their voices are not heard”, he added.
He further emphasized the important role rural women play in providing food security and reducing global poverty.
“There is no question that women are agents of change and must be supported in their fundamental role if we are to accelerate progress towards achievement of the MDGs”, Mr. Ali said.
All stakeholders present at the meeting including Member States, United Nations organizations, civil society, academia and others engaged in an in-depth conversation of the possible ways in which rural women can be empowered.