Rural women remain active agents of economic development, agriculture transformation, social change and environmental protection in our societies.
However, they are constrained in their roles as land owners or users, farmers, producers, consumers and business owners in many ways and to various degrees.
The International Day of Rural Women offers a renewed opportunity to commit to a different way of organizing our rural women to build sustainable Resilience in Agro-Food Systems and Nutrition for the desired economic development and on the various commitments that benefit rural women equally from their productivity to equal enjoyment of their rights.
This was re-emphasized at the commemoration of the International Day of Rural Women, held last week , in Maputo Mozambique.
The African Union Commission and its partners celebrated the event under the African Union Theme of 2022 ‘’Strengthening Rural Women’s Resilience in Agro-Food Systems and Nutrition’’ and Global Theme “Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All’’ to recognize the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.
H.E Amb. Josefa Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (ARBE) of the African Union Commission in her opening remarks stated that as the world is in the midst of a global food crisis, Africa is facing one of the most alarming food crises in decades from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa.
One out of five people in Africa are currently hungry and this is accentuated by the four Cs- the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, conflict and high cost of living. “Amidst this global crisis, progress on gender equality in food systems is regressing.
She stated that a recent report by CARE International found that 150 million more women than men were considered “food insecure” in 2021, a gap which is eight times greater than in 2018, when only 18 million more women than men were food insecure.
And at the same time, it is estimated that with the current rate of progress, the world will not achieve gender equality for another 300 years”.
She reiterated the strong commitment of the African Union (AU) to gender equality through various protocols and policies that address the gender imbalances in agri-food systems, such as Agenda 2063’s emphasis on the need for gender equality, parity and women’s empowerment, with a specific emphasis on ensuring that rural women have access to productive assets, such as land, credit, inputs and financial services, the 2014 Malabo Declaration promotes women’s participation in agri-business and value chain, AU Gender Strategy 2017-2027 builds on already existing commitments and targets focusing on rural women building their resilience and protection, improving gender enabling environment, and reinforcing women’s voice, leadership, and visibility.
It emphasizes a transformative approach to empower women especially Rural Women, the Bobo-Dioulasso Declaration that confined the hand-held hoe to the museum and the commitment of African Union to commemorate the International Day of Rural Women annually on every 15 October.
H.E Celso Correia, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Republic of Mozambique voiced the need to strengthen the rural women’s role in ensuring resilient Agro-food systems, and expressed his gratitude to the African union for considering Mozambique as the host to observe the International Day of Rural Women.
October 15 is a significant day to recognize the essential role of rural women in building the broken global food system from the bottom – up. He emphasized the commitment of the Government of Mozambique to support rural women’s livelihoods to “produce and distribute diverse and nutritious food.
“It is the will of the Government of Mozambique, under the leadership of H.E President Filipe Nyusi to build the skills and leadership capabilities for the rural women and girls to play a significant role in the food systems and food security of the country”.
The contribution of women’s labour in agricultural and other related fields is the backbone of our economies and it should be promoted.
Mr. Thierry Kuhn Head of Cooperation, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany stated that Women play an important role in the agriculture sector, yet they are the most vulnerable, face marginalization, and are most likely to be left behind in decision making processes.
“Many rural women continue to face the constant reality that they do not own the land they farm, have no access to financial support and have no guaranteed stable income, yet they carry the family and community, and this has showed us their great contribution to global food security”.
He further called on both individual and collective responsibilities to ensure rural women’s resilience in Agro-food systems and added that The German Federal Republic, through the Development Cooperation Agency(GIZ) and its program on strengthening Advisory Capacities for Land Governance in Africa (SLGA), recognizes rural women’s, roles and continues its collaboration with the African Union in developing a continental gender strategy on land in Africa, which would be presented to the AU Heads of State in 2023.
The strategy is expected to empower rural women and enhance food security, improved access to markets and access to financial services and purchase of agriculture inputs and services.
“Rural women should not be overlooked in policy making and participation in the Legislature process which will go a long way in support of the Africa we want and our commitment on leaving the one behind.
We must use every opportunity to empower rural women as crucial vessels for prosperous Africa. He added.
Traditional Leaders present at the commemoration pledged their commitment to work with national governments to empower rural women and ensure equitable access to land and agricultural investments. Queen Nana Dumaaley Kabukuko, of Ghana encouraged the rural women to continue playing their essential role safeguarding human lives and livelihood.
She further called on governments and other stakeholders to support the various women initiatives with the necessary technologies, mechanization inputs, and access to financial resources.
HRM King Mfumu Ntinu, of The Democratic Republic of Congo added his voice to give his assurance and that of other traditional leaders to promote the work of rural women and ensure equitable access and use of land including traditional land in their communities.
Dr, Janet Edeme, the Head of Rural Development Division, Department of Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment, of the African Union Commission presented the Maputo 2022 commitment as key outcomes of this year’s commemoration.
The key outcomes emphasized the Women’s access to land, availability of technologies, finance, adequate policies and resources for women in blue economy and fisheries, access to data and markets among others.
The call to action was presented by H.E. Amb. Josefa Sacko, which highlighted the need for relevant institutions, Ministries, Departments and Agencies of AU member states to put in place mechanisms that will bridge the gap between policy and practice on Rural Women Land Rights, prioritizing capacity to strengthen women in the blue economy and fisheries sector, develop gender-responsive Post Covid 19 recovery.
The AUC will work closely with Member States, financial institutions and development partners to enhance the implementation of the call to action and its implementation biennially, linking it to other reporting mechanisms such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme- Biannual Report (CAADP-BR) the statement added.