Joint Programme on Rural Women with Rome-based agencies

Michelle Bachelet remarks at the launch of the Joint Programme on Rural Women with Rome-based agencies, “Accelerating Progress toward the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women”. New York, 27 September 2012.

Good afternoon.

Welcome, President Johnson-Sirleaf; our distinguished panelists and participants; and our co-hosts, the Governments of Brazil, Canada, Liberia and the Netherlands.

Thank you for your partnership and strong support.
It is wonderful to be here with all of you.

This is a very exciting event for us. Today, all of us are proud to launch the joint programme, “Accelerating Progress toward the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women,” of UN Women, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Food Programme.

I want to recall who we are talking about when we say, “rural women.” These are women all over the world who work long hours as farmers, laborers, and entrepreneurs. When that work is done, they turn to work more long hours caring for their children and families. They earn a pittance for their farming, laboring and selling, and for their work in the household, they earn nothing.

And when we talk about rural women and girls, we’re talking about 25 per cent of the world’s population. The majority of them are smallholder farmers and 43 per cent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries. But perhaps “providers” is a more fitting name. What they provide- water, fuel, food, and income- sustains their families, their communities, and their nations.

Rural women fill empty plates and hungry bellies, while they themselves are often running on empty. You see, rural women aren’t underperforming because their productivity is low. They are over-performing given the limited resources they have at their disposal.

Together, we can change that. Through laws that promote equal rights, equal opportunities and equal participation, so they can feed their children more, and sell their goods at the market. Through better policies, so they can benefit from trade and finance, and make a strong contribution to inclusive economic growth.

Through basic services, so they can work with less risk to their health, and have a bank account and access to energy and clean water. And through a better division of labor, so they can have more time to do a better job on all the work they do- at home, in the fields, in the markets, and in the workplace.

When women are empowered and can claim their rights and access to land, leadership, opportunities and choices, economies grow, food security is enhanced and prospects are improved for current and future generations.

Now, rural women have been at the center of high-level debate for quite some time, and especially at the last session of the Commission on the Status of Women, at Rio +20, and as we discuss the post-2015 international development agenda.

Rural women have been lauded as the solution to ending poverty and hunger and to sustainability. We have seen repeated commitments to invest in women and agricultural development. But despite such promises and pledges of support, very few resources have been directed towards improving the everyday lives of rural women.

That’s why we’re excited about this programme and the changes that will come in the seven countries of focus: Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Niger and Rwanda.

The programme taps into the respective strengths of our agencies: FAO’s policy assistance on agriculture and food security; IFAD’s rural investment programmes; WFP’s food assistance innovations; and UN Women’s technical expertise on women’s economic empowerment.

Through this programme, we will deliver as one so rural women can lift themselves out of poverty.

Here’s how it works. Our strategic framework addresses four important areas: women’s status, rights, access to resources, and agency. And we’re working towards four clear and distinct outcomes.

Our first goal is to improve food and nutrition security for all rural women by helping women smallholder farmers increase their productivity.

We’ll do this by working with national and local governments to provide women with better access to, and control over, productive resources, such as technology that makes food processing better and more efficient; by supporting food banks, cooperatives, and nutrition awareness campaigns; and by making sure that critical services like medical checkups, land registration, and legal advice are available to women in rural areas.

The second goal is to support rural women to increase their income so they can better sustain their livelihoods.

We’ll focus on getting more financial services to rural women entrepreneurs so they can get their businesses up and running, and so they can take full advantage of the market.

Our third goal is to increase rural women’s leadership and participation so they can shape laws, policies and programmes and take charge of their own futures.

We will support women to take on leadership roles and actively participate in producer organizations, cooperatives and unions, and engage women and men advocates to raise awareness on rural women’s rights.

Our fourth and final goal is to create a more gender-responsive policy environment for the economic empowerment of rural women.

We will provide policy assistance to countries to mainstream gender equality into their food, agriculture, nutrition and rural development policies and legal frameworks. And we’ll pilot an agricultural index to keep track of the progress in each country. Working together, we will scale up and expand innovative models that work and make a difference in rural women’s lives.

When women are empowered and can claim their rights and access to land, leadership, opportunities and choices, economies grow, food security is enhanced and prospects are improved for current and future generations.

Now, all of us know that making a difference requires vision, planning and commitment. This is why I appeal to you as representatives of government, civil society, and the business community to join us in this partnership.

Working together with rural women, we can make a real and lasting difference now and for generations to come.

Thank you.


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