Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the International Day of Rural Women, to be observed on 15 October:
My mother has lived her whole life in the countryside. Although she did not receive much of a formal education, I grew up appreciating her wisdom, resilience and intelligence. In the course of my subsequent public service, I came to see that these qualities are shared by millions of rural women around the world.
Collectively, rural women are a force that can drive global progress. We must harness that power to achieve our three interlinked objectives for next year: accelerating our work towards the Millennium Development Goals, adopting a new vision for sustainable development, and concluding a meaningful universal climate agreement.
Because they often live on the frontlines of poverty, natural disasters and other threats, rural women have an enormous stake in the success of our global campaigns.
The majority of rural women depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. In developing countries, they make up more than 40 per cent of the agricultural labour force. They produce, process and prepare many of society’s meals, frequently taking primary responsibility for household food security, health status and education opportunities.
When we give rural women access to productive agricultural and natural resources, we empower them. They, in turn, can contribute more to alleviating hunger and boosting the ability of their communities to cope with the effects of climate change, land degradation and displacement. This benefits all people.
But to reap these rewards, we must address the discrimination and deprivation that rural women continue to suffer. Too many lack access to land, markets, finance, social protection and services. Many also face grave security risks in the course of their life-saving tasks, such as collecting water or fuel.
The International Day of Rural Women is an occasion to listen to their voices and respond to their concerns. Together, let us work to unleash the power of rural women by protecting their human rights, supporting their economic advancement, and enabling them to fully contribute to our shared future.