20 April 2012
Governments have missed an important opportunity to support rural women. The failure of the negotiations at the Commission on the Status of Women to reach an outcome is a disappointing signal sent to women farmers around the world about their governments’ commitment to address gender inequalities.
Rural women globally face persistent gaps in access to resources, knowledge and services, underpinned by persistent inequalities in rights. By all measures, despite repeated public commitments to gender equality, governments have by-and-large failed to meet even the most fundamental targets. Women lag behind on every Millennium Development Goal, except for the fourth goal of reducing the mortality of children
About 79% of women in developing countries consider agriculture as their primary source of livelihood. Yet, because of cultural attitudes, discrimination and a lack of recognition for their role in food production, women have a reduced access to productive resources. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 15% of landholders are women and they receive less than 10% of credit and 7% of extension services. As a result, their productivity lags behind, negatively affecting their livelihoods and that of their families.
Lack of access to services and infrastructures takes away time from education and other opportunities and this gap in access disproportionately affects women and girls. According to FAO, in Malawi, for example, women spend over eight times as much time fetching wood and water per week than men, while in rural areas of Guinea, for example, women spend more than twice more than men on the same tasks.
Governments cannot afford to miss the next opportunity to set in motion concrete actions and programmes to truly address rural women’s needs. The outcomes of Rio+20 conference in June should make explicit the primary importance of gender equality and contain specific commitments to support women’s access to resources, knowledge, services, education, training and markets.
Robert Carlson, President of World Farmers said “The failure to address the persistent inequalities that undermine rural women’s status and well-being should be the priority area of focus for governments leading into the Rio+20 conference in June. We will not achieve sustainable development if we do not achieve gender equality.”