October 15 is the International Day of Rural Woman and a chance to celebrate the accomplishments of rural women around the world.
October 17, 2017.- Rural women play key roles in their families, communities and countries, and yet they are often severely disadvantaged, economically, socially and politically.
IFAD works to empower rural women economically, to reduce their burden of work, and to strengthen their voice and participation in the decisions that affect their lives.
The stories that follow are examples of how IFAD-supported activities can impact the lives of rural women, enabling them not only to earn an income, but to gain status and confidence.
Financing futures in Uganda
Lack of access to credit very often prevents rural women from starting and building businesses and making an income.
In Uganda, the IFAD-supported Project for Financial Inclusion in Rural Areas, works strategically to attract young women and men to join Savings and Credit Cooperatives and Community Savings Groups as savers and borrowers.
With a target of 15 per cent youth engagement, the project provides young people with advanced financial literacy training, business development services and products like mobile money.
Irene Nantale, a young Ugandan woman, exemplifies the huge difference access to financial services can make in people’s lives. Her family was struggling before she joined a savings and credit cooperative in 2013. Upon joining, Irene started saving and then used her first loan to buy 50 chickens and one cow.
Today, just four years later, she has more than 350 chickens, four cows and 12 goats and she employs two people to help on the farm. Irene has since gone on to invest capital in opening a drugstore in her village in order to diversify her sources of income. Her current goal, she says, is to save to send her three children to university.
Building businesses in Morocco
Fatima Ait Lhoussine has lived her whole life in a remote village in the Atlas Mountains. There were no financial services available to her until IFAD partnered with the Government of Morocco to launch the Rural Development Programme in the Mountain Zones - Phase I. Fatima was among the first applicants and she was able to borrow enough money to buy two sheep. Eight years later, by breeding lambs, selling produce and reinvesting in her business, she has increased her household income by 60 per cent.
Access to microfinance has transformed the lives of many people in her village. Following her example, other women have been able to pool their resources and manage their sheep business together. They sell some of their sheep during Eid al-Adha, the main religious festival when sheep are in high demand, and collect the wool to create traditional Berber carpets. Fatima’s next enterprise will be to produce honey and olive oil with other members of her community.
Through the project, Fatima and other women in her community have also learned to read and write, crucial skills for building a business and playing a role in the community.
Improving nutrition in Laos
In Northern Laos, Boun Phonyahak, a young mother, is breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition by creating new recipes for more nutritious meals for her family. She has been learning about how to choose healthy, locally grown ingredients to create tasty, nutritious meals from an IFAD-supported programme using a television soap opera called My Happy Family.
Traditionally, mothers in rural Laos often feed their infants sticky rice from the family’s table. But this “adult” food can be hard on a child’s digestive system. More importantly, as every second child in Laos is stunted, this type of rice lacks the nutrients to help a child grow.
“Before I didn’t know what to cook for the children,” Boun says. “After seeing the video, we know more how to cook for the children and parent separately. I’ve learned about fern, Asian spinach and Chinese cabbage, and how to prepare a healthy soup from these vegetables.”
The soap opera is a part of a larger IFAD-supported programme with 225 villages participating. To date it has reached about 79,000 people from eight different ethnic groups living in 15,000 households and includes cultivating home gardens to improve family diets and strengthening links to markets and improve water management.
These three short stories are among the many playing out on a daily basis in some of the world’s poorest regions. On the International Day of Rural Women, they serve as a stark reminder that gender equality is essential to achieving the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, particularly the eradication of poverty and hunger.