UN Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day of Rural Women 2011

UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General’s Messages

Message on the International Day of Rural Women 2011

This year’s International Day of Rural Women falls at a time of heightened awareness of the important contribution women are making to social progress. Women have been rightly recognized for their role in supporting movements for democracy, human rights and peace. Their contribution to sustainable development is equally significant.

Study after study has demonstrated that rural women are pivotal to addressing hunger, malnutrition and poverty. They are the farmers and nurturers, the entrepreneurs and educators, the healers and helpers who can contribute to food security and economic growth in the world’s most remote and vulnerable settings.

Despite the heavy responsibility rural women shoulder, they lack equal access to opportunities and resources. This hampers their advancement and holds all people back. More than 100 million people could be lifted out of poverty if rural women had the same access to productive resources as men, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Productivity on women’s farms would increase up to 30 per cent. The number of hungry people would drop by as much as 17 per cent – an impact that translates into improvements for as many as 150 million individuals. The benefits would reverberate even further as these women’s children gain better access to health services, education and nutrition.

We know how to achieve these gains: Invest in rural women. Eliminate discrimination against them in law and in practice. Ensure that policies respond to their needs. Give them equal access to resources. Provide rural women with a role in decision-making.

These measures will help drive sustainable development – one of the great imperatives of the 21st century. As we prepare for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held next year in Rio, let us remember that rural women have enormous untapped potential to generate results.

On this International Day, I call on all partners to recognize the contribution of rural women to our world, and to help them do even more for our shared future.

Ban Ki-moon