Coming on the heels of unprecedented global efforts for women’s rights, equality and justice, International Women’s Day, 8 March, will put a spotlight on the tireless work of activists who have been central to these extraordinary movements worldwide. Under this year’s theme, “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives”, events around the world will capture the vibrant work of activists and their mobilization for change.
Through marches of solidarity, viral social media campaigns, cultural efforts and powerful grassroots organizing, people across the world are galvanizing for a future that is gender equal. While some of these movements have captured the headlines, other efforts persevere far away from the limelight. Rural and urban activists continue to mobilize, disrupt the status quo, and influence a broad range of policy, legislative and social reforms, from founding projects to end violence at the workplace to providing access to services for ethnic, immigrant and minority women, working every day to leave no one behind.
UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said: “We know that healthy societies include a wide mix of voices, yet millions of women around the world are being silenced and their potential cramped. The current solidarity movements have to be a tipping point for accountability; an end to impunity and the cyclical poverty of women in both rural and urban areas. Lively political activism from both men and women must target change for those who need it most”.
Today, gender inequality is rife: 1 in 3 women experience violence in their lifetime; 830 women die every day from preventable pregnancy-related causes; and only 1 in 4 parliamentarians worldwide are women. It will be 2086 before we close the gender pay gap if present trends continue with no action.
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to stand in solidarity with all those fearless women standing up for gender equality, and spotlight those who often pass unnoticed. Today’s activists are empowering those most likely to be left behind, the majority of whom are women, as UN Women’s latest report, Turning Promises into Action, reveals:
- Across all regions, women are more likely to live in extreme poverty than men. This gender gap in poverty (living on less than 1.90 USD a day) is as high as 22 per cent for the 25 – 34 age group—women’s peak reproductive years, proving the challenges of reconciling work outside and inside the house.
- More than 50 per cent of urban women and girls in developing countries live in conditions where they lack at least one of the following: access to clean water, improved sanitation facilities, durable housing, and sufficient living area.
Rural women and their organizations represent an enormous potential, making up over a quarter of the world population. The theme of the upcoming 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women will focus on the challenges and opportunities they face. Rural women till the lands and plant seeds ensuring food security for their communities. As primary energy managers in households, they can lead the way in transitioning to sustainable energy and build climate resilience.
Yet, on almost every measure of development, rural women fare worse than rural men or urban women. They are disproportionately affected by poverty and unequal access to land and natural resources, infrastructure and services, and decent work and social protection.
As a pre-requisite to ensure rural women rights, harmful practices against women and girls, such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, need to end. The Spotlight initiative, launched in 2017 with an initial investment of EUR 500 million by the European Union, is one of the forward-looking global solutions to eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls, including in rural areas.
This is a press release from UN Women, the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, and Partner in GFAR with a seat on the GFAR Steering Committee. Un Women is also a supporter and partner in the Gender in Agriculture Partnership.