The Secretary-General Message on the International Day of Rural Women

Oct 15, 2011

This year’s International Day of Rural Women falls at a time of heightenedawareness of the important contribution women are making to social progress. Womenhave been rightly recognized for their role in supporting movements for democracy,human rights and peace. Their contribution to sustainable development is equallysignificant.

Study after study has demonstrated that rural women are pivotal to addressinghunger, malnutrition and poverty. They are the farmers and nurturers, the entrepreneursand educators, the healers and helpers who can contribute to food security and economicgrowth in the world’s most remote and vulnerable settings.

Despite the heavy responsibility rural women shoulder, they lack equal access toopportunities and resources. This hampers their advancement and holds all people back.More than 100 million people could be lifted out of poverty if rural women had the sameaccess to productive resources as men, according to the United Nations Food andAgriculture Organization. Productivity on women’s farms would increase up to 30 percent. The number of hungry people would drop by as much as 17 per cent – an impactthat translates into improvements for as many as 150 million individuals. The benefitswould reverberate even further as these women’s children gain better access to healthservices, education and nutrition.

We know how to achieve these gains: Invest in rural women. Eliminatediscrimination against them in law and in practice. Ensure that policies respond to theirneeds. Give them equal access to resources. Provide rural women with a role in decisionmaking.These measures will help drive sustainable development – one of the greatimperatives of the 21st century. As we prepare for the United Nations Conference onSustainable Development, to be held next year in Rio, let us remember that rural womenhave enormous untapped potential to generate results.

On this International Day, I call on all partners to recognize the contribution ofrural women to our world, and to help them do even more for our shared future