Wednesday, October 9, 2013

UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women considers rural women

The Committee dedicated half a day to discussing rural women on Monday, as part of its two-week long meeting in Geneva.  The webpage dedicated to the event is here, but on it I cannot find links to the materials I received in a summarizing email.  Here are some highlights:
The aim of the half-day general discussion was to commence the Committee’s process of elaborating a "General Recommendation on rural women". The purpose of the general recommendation is to provide appropriate and authoritative guidance to States Parties on the measures to be adopted to ensure full compliance with their obligations to protect, respect and fulfil the rights of rural women.
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In an opening statement Elisabeth Rasmusson, Assistant Executive Director of Partnerships and Governance, World Food Programme, speaking on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, United Nations Women and the World Food Programme, said of the 1.4 billion extremely poor people in the world 70 per cent lived in rural areas. Rural women carried most of the unpaid work burden due to the lack of infrastructure and services. Over 150 million people would be lifted out of hunger if women had equal access to land, education, tools, technologies, credit markets and participation.
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Mayra Gomez, Co-Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, focused on secure rights to land for rural women which was a critical issue and could itself be a prism through which structural patterns of gender inequality could be revealed. Women produced 50 per cent of food globally, and up to 80 per cent in the developing world, but globally it was estimated that only one per cent of women owned land.

Catarina De Albuquerque, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, said in the 12 county missions she had undertaken since taking on her mandate she had found that rural women suffered more than rural men, or urban women, of lack of access to water and sanitation. Lack of access to sanitation affected human dignity and undermined the enjoyment of women and girls’ human rights.
Several country's reports were noted:  
Australia said one third of all Australian women lived in regional communities, and while the number of women living in rural communities was low, the vastness of Australia and the isolation of rural communities presented particular challenges. Australia was working to improve women’s access to key services, including education and training, which led directly to better employment opportunities and enabled women to become drivers of economic growth. Access to information and communications technologies was also an enabling factor. Globally Australia’s aid programme supported the GSMA Women Programme which aimed to expand mobile telephone access to poor women.

Spain said it was a huge paradox that the territorial area where women’s input was most important was where they were least recognized. Gender disaggregated data and statistics collection had to be improved. All public policies must devote a specific chapter to the needs of rural women. Women must be seen as a key element in the economic participation of the rural world. The skills of educated rural women must be better used, for example in Spain, the percentage of rural women with university degrees, was twice that of men (20 per cent compared to 10 per cent).

Cuba said it had been working for a long time on the issue and as a result had identified challenges and problems faced by rural women in Cuba. Some rural communities, particularly in mountainous areas, often did not have jobs for women. When women did work their work was not recognized, as it was often not full-time hours. In 2012 Cuba started a new development phase that included actions to improve the provision of recreational land to women, resulting in over 17,000 women now holding over 10 per cent of the land.

Brazil said in rural areas women accounted for a significant proportion of the agricultural labour force, played an essential role in food production and performed most of the unpaid work. Yet rural women and girls were more vulnerable to poverty, lack of education and violence. The Government of Brazil had taken several initiatives since 2003 to ensure that rural women could participate in and benefit from rural development, and to combat gender-based violence. Rural women’s empowerment was key.

Venezuela said no measure to help rural women could be successful if not accompanied by a policy of measures of equality. The Venezuelan Government had launched several policies, particularly in the granting of loans, equipment, infrastructure, training and technical assistance to rural communities and particularly to women. In its seventh National Agricultural Census Venezuela had included a gender aspect in order to disaggregate data by gender in future.

Syria said the Syrian Government had always considered women to be a driving force in economic development. Rural people, including women, were the hardest hit by violence stemming from the horrors of terrorism currently afflicting Syria; the result of armed terrorist groups supported and financed by the parties known to all, who were guilty of crimes against the Syrian people. Rural areas of Syria and rural women were the first to bear the brunt of sanctions which prevented them from enjoying their right to development and other rights. The speaker also spoke about the suffering of rural women in the Israeli-occupied Golan territory. 
Thailand said as a developing country with a large population of rural women, today’s discussion was timely. A holistic approach was needed to address the issues, especially to enhance women’s political participation, and help rural women access jobs and services. The allocation of resources to support rural women and the prioritization of female-headed households were crucial. The speaker outlined a number of actions taken by the Thai Government to empower rural women and girls.
A February 2012 UN event focusing on rural women was the subject of blog posts here and here.  A November 2012 meeting is discussed here.  My work on Article 14 of CEDAW, which addresses the rights of rural women, can be downloaded herehere, and here.

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