Rural Women’s SpeakOut

Rural Women’s SpeakOut hosted by NGO/CSW/NY


Press Release by UN Women available at



Myrna Cunningham Kain, Representing Latin America Region

  • The Rural Women would like to know what the UN is doing. They expect the UN to use their role to be vigilant in ensuring that governments enforce legislation and provide more support to rural areas.


Elka, Representing Asia Pacific Region: India, Taiwan, Mongolia, Burma, Japan

  • This group discussed the protection of women’s rights, indigenous languages, migration, and the problem of nuclear proliferation. Rural women are losing their land to big corporations and developers, and are left helpless. They discussed how governments and the UN can help solve these problems. Women must not be silent, need to stand up and speak out to ensure that governments provide technical and financial support.
  • Achievements have not come easily to rural women. Clear goals and nice dreams are the target. Reach higher than you think in order to meet today’s world’s requirement. Good education is important for rural women. One opportunity leads to another. Don’t be ashamed to ask your organizations and governments for help. Be strong and confident in yourself, things will thus happen accordingly. Networking is very powerful in today’s world; communicate with one another and empower yourselves and each other.


Constance Ogulette, Representing Africa Region:

  • In Africa, there are many problems. Early and forced marriage is a grave problem in this region.  Lack of education for the girl child, lack of resources for communities, high mortality rates in communities, lack of family planning for the girl child. There is also a lot of domestic and country-wide violence, as well as conflicts from country to country, clan to clan and even within the home. Rural–urban migration is a problem, where the young women go to town and end up dead or wandering the streets. There are problems associated with climate change, which has caused floods, droughts, heavy winds and a lot of poverty in Africa. African countries cannot afford their living because they live off agriculture and climate change has inhibited this.  Poverty increases because all basic needs come from agriculture, including healthcare. Women walk long distances for water, at times risking their lives to attack by men or animals, and often cannot find water because of drought.
  • As a solution, they found it important to network with other countries and groups. They also want to create cooperative societies to help the economic sector.  Organizing groups at local levels will help solve problems. It is important to counsel mothers and children on health education and reproductive health and to discourage early marriage. The girl children should speak out through clubs and advocate for themselves. Communities need civic education to be informed of what is occurring on the international stage.
  • Laws currently in place within African governments are written but not enforced. There is a huge need to implement them, and the UN should put pressure on governments to enforce these laws. Governments should provide modernization for agriculture and to ensure that grassroots women get support, since funding rarely reaches women in rural communities. When the UN reaches directly on the ground floor they address the real issues, because the governments do not reach people in the rural areas.
  • Rural women are not exposed to the internet, since they do things on a local level. If they were told what it is and how to access it, they would be better informed and able to use the internet to their advantage.  UN agencies need to establish a legal platform for all the African causes to protect women.


Joanne Todd, Representing Europe, USA & Canada Regions:

  • The 56 developed countries in the European, Canadian and US Region face issues that are very different from other those of other regions.
  • “Rural” in North America does not necessarily mean you’re involved with agriculture, but issues of poverty still face those living in rural areas. The talking points are the same for rural people at the CSW, including access to education, transportation, resources and medical care and the problem of isolation. Poverty makes it difficult to access services.
  • Agriculturally speaking, decades of inconsistent prices have made it difficult for farmers to continue in their business, and rural isolation has increased. The issues they talked about weren’t just for women, but for women and their families, for example, rural depopulation. Women are trying to work multiple jobs in order to support their families and farms.
  • In the US there are different issues, however they found that in the Pacific Northwest and Apalachia, there are huge environmental problems, such as fracking, which destroys the environment and takes away jobs.  There is also increased poverty due to a lack of access to jobs; mental health issues with lack of facilities; and economic issues for people who can’t afford to move away from the country.
  • In southwestern New Mexico, there are problems with immigration, oppression and lack of human rights for undocumented workers. A solution might be to have the UN view this as a human rights issue. Documentation of workers is an international issue that has not been dealt with appropriately.
  • Governments must recognize that despite being a small percentage of the population of developed countries, rural people face many difficult issues. Women need to become more politically involved in order to educate other women and to give them more power and representation.




H.E. Michelle Bachelet:

  • The wide range of realities between the regions helps identify a starting point. When you know where the shoe pinches, then you can find ideas to solve the issues.
  • It is not easy for agriculture to be considered relevant, since economically, investments have decreased. Therefore this sector needs to be used for growth, and it is important to see how it will fit in with the other sectors that impact decisions on a daily basis. This is not easy.  The political problem of protectionism affects agricultural sector growth and women with self-sustaining models. When thinking of rural women we cannot focus only on women farmers, but must consider women traders as well. There are many ways one can improve women’s possibilities and development through UN Women. It is important for women to have economic independence.  We must do as much as we can, and there are global/structural issues that need to be resolved by countries and international communities. Governments can create better trade and agricultural policies that are not gender neutral but rather address women in particular, and assure that projects are on the ground to support the capacities of CSOs and women’s organizations. The UN needs to network with CSOs and encourage governments to communicate directly with them, with the UN acting as a bridge between them.  How can the UN support women’s organizations to reach decision-making levels and transitionals measures? Only 19 percent of women are involved in council, in government and ministries.
  • Governments should abolish laws that discriminate against women. Governments need to implement and enforce the laws that already exist to reach women.  There needs to be an increase in investments in agriculture. The UN will continue working to accomplish these goals. Gender perspectives should be incorporated in every aspect of life, law and infrastructure.  There is no such thing as a neutral policy; if women aren’t explicitly addressed, women are often not included.  Women should benefit equally from previous and current policy.  The lack of girl child health and education policies is very important. With education you can discourage many problems from the initial level.  This includes not only formal education; it can be more informal in nature, from woman to woman within communities.  Unpaid care work is something that most women struggle with, primarily in rural areas.  Women’s tremendous contribution to daily family care work each day should be recognized.



Eve Crawley, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

  • FAO is a specialized agency: it addresses food security and people’s livelihood.
  • FAO recognizes that rural women’s knowledge of varieties of agriculture, medicine and science can have a beneficial impact on rural areas.
  • The Treaty on Plant Genetic Diversity acknowledges the importance of women’s role in engaging in every stage of agriculture.
  • Some of the big issues that have been raised are important and complex, including the question of how the policy of one country influences the ability of another country to eat. Saving a farming system in one part of the world can undermine the ability of people in another part of the world to thrive agriculturally.
  • There has been a transformation of rural spaces over the last 30 years, with money moving out of rural areas and industries/companies etc. exploiting it.
  • For every MDG goal about which the FAO has data, rural women fair worse than rural men. Rural women’s progress was lost in the analysis of the success of these millennium development goals. There are daily deeds of disempowerment facing women.
  • Empowerment is important. There is a need to expand access to resources and services and to mobilize resources and investment.


Charlotte Bunch (The Center for Global Leadership)

  • Rural life has been marginalized by the ideas that modern imagery has placed upon our modern society. Rural women have the solution, but in order to get to those solutions we need to value our own life and solutions and value what we know and bring it to the table.
  • It is important to think about what we know and how to bring it to the table as the beginning point on how to move forward. The equality of rural women’s professions is an important challenge facing the women’s movement, as is the growing gap between women who have benefited form the last forty years of change and those who have not.  This gap can be rural/urban, class, castes etc.
  • Suggestions from this perspective: the panel highlighted how many women are marginalized and displaced through migration, i.e. undocumented workers. Women and men who live outside the protection of the state are important since they lack governmental human rights protection, increasingly a problem for rural women. Violence against women and the connection between this and early marriage is an important one. There is a silence that still accompanies some forms of violence against women, and it is important to break it, which is difficult when you have nowhere to go as many rural women don’t.  How do we build safe spaces in these rural areas?  As part of the advisory group of violence against women with the Secretary-General in 2005, there are still challenges because we don’t know how it all works, what solutions allow women to escape?  Agricultural and structural issues are important to address, and these solutions for real women have to work within the political structure. Information from the UN is crucial to the process of bringing the voices of marginalized women into the governmental realm.