Empowerment of Rural Women – The Key to Prosperity, Equity and Peace

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By Freda Laura Orochi

It’s that time of the year again when we celebrate the International Day of Rural Women. This day is an occasion to listen to the voices of the rural women and respond to their concerns. The day is celebrated on 15th October and the theme of this year’s celebration is “Sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls” . The national celebrations of this day will be held in Soroti District.

Rural women play a crucial role in ensuring food security by providing labour to the agricultural sector. Yet despite this contribution, they grapple with hunger and malnutrition. The number of women living in poverty has increased disproportionately to men. The existing gender inequality in access to and control over land based resources is an obstacle to the sustainable management of natural resources and socio – economic development.

Poverty affecting rural women is directly linked to lack of economic and social resources like land, credit, education, water, healthcare services and access to market. Rural women participation in decision making at household and community levels is minimal and yet they are at the forefront of all activities that take place in their communities. Critically most rural women are victims of gender based violence acts such as physical abuse and assault, denial of inheritance rights, early childhood marriage, sexual violence, female genital mutilation and deprivation of assets such as land, livestock, and property.

In most cases because of the societal norms and entrenched patriarchy they are too afraid to seek for social protection and justice. Their needs as well as their contributions are relegated to the margins of policy development and budgetary considerations. This puts rural women in position of dependency on their male relatives. Therefore, there is need to improve and strengthen gender equality as it will give rural women increased access and control over land and other productive resources which is crucial to their socio – economic development.

As we reflect on the theme of this year’s Rural women’s day, let us join collectively to harness the power of the rural woman by working together to protect their human rights, supporting their social, economic advancement, and enabling them to fully contribute to the nation’s shared future. Rural women need access to sustainable infrastructure services and social protection to be able to realize their full potential and live quality lives. There is therefore need to ensure that rural women’s voices, issues affecting them are recognized in policy making and ensure their participation in all matters affecting her well being and economic development. This will hopefully end discriminatory practices and guarantee the well-being of rural woman and their families for the betterment of the nation.