International Day of Rural Women

Photo: UN Women/REna Effendi

Photo: UN Women Europe and Central Asia/Rena Effendi

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Rural women make up over a quarter the world population and majority of the 43 per cent of women in the global agricultural labour force. They till the lands and plant seeds to feed nations. They ensure food security for their communities and build climate resilience. But when it comes to owning land, accessing agricultural inputs, financing and technologies for climate resilience, they are left far behind men.

This year, International Day for Rural Women (15 October), focuses on the theme, “Challenges and opportunities in climate-resilient agriculture for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”. The International Day for Rural Women is followed by World Food Day (16 October, themed, “Change the future of Migration: Invest in Food Security and Rural Development”) and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October)—highlighting issues that are inextricably linked with rural women’s empowerment.

With changing climate, women’s already unequal access to land, water and energy is further impacted. At the same time, existing gender inequalities and discriminations that constrain rural women’s decision-making power and participation in their households and their communities, are exacerbated by climate change and climate disasters. For instance, as floods and droughts increase, rural women and girls spend more time and effort to collect and secure water and fuel, missing out on education and income-generating opportunities.

A changing climate also means that there is a shrinking window of opportunity to close gender gaps in agriculture. A vast majority of the world’s poor live in rural areas, and closing the gender gaps in agriculture is essential for ensuring food security, building climate resilience and ending poverty. It will enable women farmers to adopt climate-resilient agricultural approaches at the same rate as men and increase overall agricultural productivity. According to some estimates, women’s equal access to land and other productive assets could increase agricultural outputs by up to 20 per cent in Africa.

UN Women supports efforts to increase women farmers’ access to land, financing, climate information and climate-smart technologies to achieve gender equality through climate-resilient agriculture, as well as enhancing their capacity to move up green agricultural value chains.

Rural women—agents of change fighting poverty, hunger and climate change

Top stories

Photo Essay: Rural women across Europe and Central Asia empower their communities despite challenges

Photo Essay: Rural women across Europe and Central Asia empower their communities despite challenges
Women are central to the development of rural areas and to national economies. They account for a significant proportion of agricultural labour, play a key role in food production, especially in subsistence farming, and perform most of the unpaid care work in rural areas. Across Europe and Central Asia, UN Women aims to accelerate rural women's economic empowerment. Read more►

Taalaigul Isakunova, Minister of Labour and Social Development of the Kyrgyz Republic, is congratulates Nuriya Temirbek kyzy for being elected as a deputy of a local council. Photo: UN Women/Meriza Emilbekova

From housewifes to local counsils, rural women in Kyrgyzstan shift gears 
In villages across Kyrgyzstan, rural women are taking charge of their lives and livelihoods after completing leadership and skills training programme. Read more►

Catherine Wolf, Programme Analyst with UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality, and Zabel Hayruni of Green Lane talking to  beneficiaries in the community of Aghavnadzor. Photo: Green Lane/Armen Sarukhanyan

Empowering women in the farthest corners of Armenia
In most rural areas in Armenia, people rely on small scale and subsistence farming. Due to the lack of appropriate processing equipment, women farmers couldn’t rely on sustainable income from their produce. A UN Women Fund for Gender Equality programme is supporting women farmers in remote villages, providing them with equipment and training to diversify and market their produce. Read more ►

Rural women in Svrljig with their new seedlings from the organic food production training, organized by local Women's Councillors' Network. Photo: UN Women/Jelena Sekulic

Local women's networks drive gender equality 
In rural Serbia, local Women Councilors Networks, set up with support from UN Women, empower women to gain economic independence and take active roles within their communities. Read more ►

  Bubuaisha Kurbanova and Nodira Avezova live on opposite sides of the Tajik-Kyrgyz border. Photo: UN Women/Aijamal Duishebaeva

Women forge peace along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border
Rural women living along the disputed Kyrgyz-Tajik border mediate in their communities to resolve disputes and promote peace. Read more ►

Adila Suljevic. Photo: UN Women/Sulejman Omerbašić 

From where I stand: "Nature has healed me"
A survivor of sexual violence during the Bosnian war, Adila Suljevic overcome her trauma by cultivating and selling her own produce with support from a UN Women project that helped her expand her business. Read more ►

Stepping up rural women's economic empowerment in Kyrgyzstan 
This video shows examples of how the global initiative "Accelerating Progress towards Rural Women's Economic Empowerment" in Kyrgyzstan boosts women's economic opportunities and make them influential players in theirs communities.

Join the conversation

Join the conversation around the International Day for Rural Women using the hashtag #ruralwomen. A social media package with images and messages in English, Spanish and French will be available soon.

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See our coverage of International Day for Rural Women, World Food Day and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty from previous years: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011