UN Women Meeting to Change Lives of Rural Women in Africa

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Ethiopia – A two-day consultations aimed at improving the lives of rural women in African countries has started in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


Report by Bettie K. Johnson Mbayo, [email protected]


The consultation meeting title, “The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62),” is the premier intergovernmental global forum for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

It is a platform for policy dialogue, review, and for norms and standards-setting that plays a critical role in bringing together Governments, UN entities, women rights’ organizations, civil society and international and regional organizations around inclusive, transformative policy decisions.

This year’s priority theme is “Challenges and Opportunities in Achieving Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls,” which is a reinforcement of the call to focus on rural women and girls made at the Fourth UN Conference on Women in Beijing (1995).

The CSW62 accordingly also strengthens Agenda 2063 and the AU Constitutive Act, both of which commit Africa to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as a pre-condition, without which the continent’s development goals and aspirations cannot and will not be realized.

The Regional Director of UN Women Office for West and Central Africa (WCARO), Diana Louise Ofwona, at the opening of the meeting Thursday, February 22, said women and girls face multiple and intersecting inequalities and forms of discrimination. 

She added that they lag furthest behind on every gender and development indicator according to UN Women’s latest report title: “Turning Promises into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The report says, 122 women aged 25 to 34 live in extreme poverty for every 100 men of the same age group; women are up to 11 percentage points more likely than men to report food insecurity; climate change has a disproportionate impact on women and children, who are 14 times as likely as men to die during a disaster.

She said, “As you can imagine, for rural women and girls, the situation is so much worse.”

Madam Ofwona added that the SG’s report on the current priority theme acknowledges that rural women farmers are increasingly engaged in sustainable agriculture, practicing agro ecological and climate-resilient agricultural methods for food security and nutrition. 

“It is crucial that rural women be empowered to convene and participate in local and national policy dialogues and engage with decision-makers,” she states.

The WCARO boss said there is indeed no doubt as to the leadership, resilience, courage and innovation of rural women and girls, but what is missing, is the requisite infrastructure to support their strengths.

She further said there is need for systematic enforcement of progressive legislation to enable rural women and girls to fully enjoy their rights, and the removal of barriers that inhibit them from reaching their full potentials.

“Rural women and girls continue to suffer, disproportionately, from food insecurity and malnutrition with the number of chronically undernourished people increasing globally.

Madam Ofwona also stated that she sees the US$250m proposed project will culminate in economically empowering at least one million people, mostly women, youth and marginalized groups in the Sahel.

Adding that the project will double their income in 3 years, while demonstrating a positive impact on 12 if not all of the SDGs – thus surely leaving no-one behind.

“Increased investments and partnerships are required to ensure that essential infrastructure and technology reach rural areas for the benefit of and use by rural women and girls,” she added.

“The challenges of rural women and girls in Africa are inter-connected and a complex mix of normative, structural, socio-cultural and operational issues, (as identified since the Beijing Conference through numerous global and regional conventions), and some of which are deepening including the re-negotiation of basic rights to education, health, decision-making,” Madam Ofwona stated.

She said there are flagrant cases of violence and abuse, including child marriage, female genital mutilation, exploitation of domestic workers, human trafficking among others.

She called for a strong legal, policy frameworks and effective implementation at national and local levels, adding that a removal of discriminatory gender norms and practices to secure women’s right and access to land and tenure security.

According to her, to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2030, it will require increasing the agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers through sustainable agricultural practices, and equitably sharing the benefits of agricultural proceeds. 

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