15 October 2021
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF RURAL WOMEN – “Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All”
Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), a non-partisan national network of women’s rights organisations and activists striving for the rights of women and girls, commemorates International Day of Rural Women which is celebrated every year on the 15 th of October. This year’s theme, “Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All” recognises the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.
Women farmers play a central role in reversing poverty and food insecurity, and building resilience to climate change. About 80 percent of Zimbabwe’s food is produced by family farms, and small-scale farming is the dominant livelihood in Zimbabwe. Women farmers face two compounding layers of exclusion- as smallholder farmers and as women. This is exacerbated by the low levels of government spending on agriculture and climate change- meaning that the share of resources that women farmers can receive is already limited. Genuine support to women farmers could unleash the potential of hundreds of millions to effectively reduce poverty and hunger, while building the country’s resilience to climate change.
The agricultural sector, which provides a source of livelihood for 70% of the population continues to face challenges relating to low production and productivity, limited access to markets and market information, problematic land rights and insecure land tenure, poor land management practices, limited access to finance and credit by communal farmers, climate change-induced disruptions and weak extension support systems. Additionally, over 1.1 million children and women require nutrition assistance and by prioritising women in agriculture. Therefore, Zimbabwe must seek to improve addressing hunger as (i) hunger has increased in Zimbabwe rising from 16.5 in 2014 to 44.4 in 2019 as measured by the Global Hunger Index (GHI) and (ii) the 2020 Zimbabwe Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) indicated that 7 million people urgently needed humanitarian assistance in 2020, up from 5.5 million in 2019. More than 4.3 million people were acutely food insecure in rural areas, while 2.2 million in urban areas, were equally cereal food insecure.
Therefore, this year’s theme further resonates with the need to realise that this is a key moment to galvanize action by all stakeholders to support rural women and girls to not only rebuild their lives after COVID-19 but also increase their resilience to better prepared to face disaster. We cannot help but bring to the fore the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the vulnerability of rural women’s rights to land and resources. Additionally, rural women and girls play essential roles in food systems – from production, to processing, preparation, consumption, and distribution of food – as well as in securing household and community nutrition. Yet, “unequal power relations between women and men in the household and society, discriminatory gender norms and practices, prevalent violence against women and girls, and their disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work, result in unequal access to food and heightened experience of hunger, malnutrition, undernutrition, and food insecurity” (UN WOMEN, 2021).
Rural women are further disproportionately impacted by climate change due to their social roles, the discrimination they suffer and their poverty. At the same time, they are powerful agents for promoting sustainable development and effective responses to climate change. Sustainable development demands the active participation of rural women in environmental planning, finance, budgeting and policy-making processes. As such, rural women deserve to be supported with adequate resources such as control and ownership of land and related natural resources including water. Therefore, gender-responsive investments to expand basic infrastructure, healthcare and care services in rural
areas are now more critical than ever and it is now important as a nation to bolster women’s land rights in law and practice so as to protect women from displacement and losing their sources of livelihoods.
Rural Women, We Salute You!//END