Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rural women subject of recommendation at 30th anniversary meeting of CEDAW committee

The CEDAW Committee met in Istanbul last week, and one of the General Recommendations (GR) that came out of that meeting involves rural women in particular. It was introduced by Egypt's member on the Committee, Naela Gabr and is entitled "General Recommendation on Article 14 of CEDAW: Rural Women."

The following is quoted from the document:
For thirty years, the Committee had received initial and periodic reports from developing and developed countries, the experts had long discussions with the corresponding delegates about the implementation of Article 14. The concluding observations/remarks recommendations [COB's] are self explanatory ...many challenges do exist, problems need to be resolved, and in spite of some progress a lot has to be done. 
On October 2011, the Committee adopted a general statement on Rural Women stressing that "despite efforts undertaken to encourage overall empowerment of rural women, there are still many issues that need to be addressed as women, and in particular rural women, face discrimination in all spheres of life. [50th session of CEDAW]. 
At the same session, the Committee decided to establish a working group on rural women for the purpose of preparing a general recommendation on Article 14.
* * *
The working group had studied the main challenges facing rural women, it pointed out the additional information to be included in state reports under Article 14, suggested recommendations for future government action... This constitutes our plan while drafting the general recommendation. 
I- Main challenges facing rural women:

1- Access to key productive resources: only between 10 and 20% of all land holders are women.
2- Access to and control over land: Land property ownership rights and inheritance rights are de facto not recognized in many countries. Lands are registered only in male names as well as compensation payments.
3- Social rights and basic services:
  • In many parts of the world, sociopolitical and economic constraints limit girls and women access to education. These include restrictions in mobility, preferential schooling of boys over girls. 
  • Rural women exist principally outside official statistics relating to GDP and employment and have very often been ignored in development planning. 
  • Maternal mortality continues to be high in rural areas, mostly due to the absence of skilled birth attendants and medical personnel, malnutrition is prevailing as well as poor health services, the girl child is usually neglected because of traditional rural setting. 
  • Malnutrition as well as food insecurity affect livelihoods, lack of drinking water and long distance to collect water for daily family needs. 
  • Particular constraints to access to financial services (policies and legal barriers, cultural norms) as well as to their access to modern and new technologies. 
4- Political Participation: Inadequate expression in relevant community organizations, including legal decision making bodies... thereby reinforcing politically and in law the marginalization that rural women already experience by virtue of the physical geography that separates them from centers of power.

5- Girls from rural communities are at special risk of violence and sexual exploitation and trafficking when they leave the rural community to seek employment in towns.

6- Migration out of rural areas to urban areas and abroad is becoming an important livelihood strategy for women and men. In spite of migration of millions of rural residents to urban areas and the decline of rural populations in developed countries ... (high population growth in rural areas can increase pressure on land and other resources –migration).  
7- Access to justice: most of the women who stand to benefit from Article14 are likely not aware of these rights (legal illiteracy). The extent to which these women know about CEDAW in general, and Article 14 in particular, is very limited. Rural women in particular have fewer opportunities than their urban counterparts to enforce their rights because of the relative absence of law and legal actors in rural places.

 8- Rural women often bear the major burden in:
  • Armed conflict and p[o]st conflict situations. 
  • Economic and food crisis. 
  • Neo-liberal economic policy choices. 
II- Additional information to be included in State reports under Article 14: [related to
new challenges and problems]; specifically, measures taken on:

a) Enabling environment including necessary institutional set up and legal policy framework.
b) Impacts of macroeconomic policy measures on rural women.
c) Opportunities to access decent rural employment and livelihood diversification activities.
d) The impact of natural disasters and climate change on rural women.
e) Large scale land acquisitions and changes in land use.
f) Disadvantaged groups of women: disabled women, older women, indigenous ones.

III- Recommendations for government action. [Examples]

In addition to recommendations responding to each and every challenge and problem, the following are to be taken as a priority:

1- Implement a comprehensive national strategy to reduce the disproportionate number of rural women living in poverty and promote their well being.

2- Allocate adequate budgetary, humane and administrative resources to achieve rural women's substantive equality in national budgets.

3- Place a gender perspective at the center of all policies and programs affecting rural development.

4- Strengthen the mechanisms to claim rights,take measures to remove barriers to women's ability to claim those rights.

In conclusion:
The elaboration and adoption of this general recommendation will help raising the visibility of rural women's concerns on the checklist of matters about which state parties must pay particular attention when reporting to CEDAW, thus increasing the focus, among policy makers, on rural women's legitimate demands for equal rights and their aspirations for a decent life and a better future. Needless to say that the following step would be more attention given to complaint mechanism, mainly our optional protocol.
The GR also notes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's recent comments on the occasion of the fourth International Day of Rural Women:
As we approach the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, it is time to invest more in rural women, protect their rights and improve their status. On this international day, I call on all partners to support rural women, listen to their voices and ideas, and ensure that policies respond to their needs and demands. Let us do everything we can to enable them to reach their potential for the benefit of all.
My work on Article 14 is cited in the GR, and can be downloaded here, here, and here. My coverage of CSW 56, which focused on rural women, is here.

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