15th Oct is International Day of Rural Women Women’s resilience in the face of COVID-19

Ranjan K Baruah
Recent pandemic is still bringing more questions and it might take time to get answers and solutions. The impact of the pandemic is different in different locations or places. Though the impact differs for men and women we can find that women and girls are disadvantaged in this pandemic. The problem is not only in urban areas but in  rural areas too. Rural women, with a crucial role in agriculture, food security and nutrition, already face struggles in their daily lives.
Now, since COVID-19 and their unique health needs in remote areas, they are less likely to have access to quality health services, essential medicines, and vaccines. Restrictive social norms and gender stereotypes can also limit rural women’s ability to access health services. We could see a digital divide in rural areas. Rural women - a quarter of the world’s population - work as farmers, wage earners, and entrepreneurs.
Women make up 43 percent of the global agricultural labour force, yet they face significant discrimination when it comes to land and livestock ownership, equal pay, participation in decision-making entities and access to credit and financial services. Despite all of that, rural women have been at the front lines of responding to the pandemic even as their unpaid care and domestic work increased under lockdowns.
Rural women and girls are leaders in agriculture, food security and nutrition, land, managing natural resource management and unpaid and domestic care work. They are at the frontline when natural resources and agriculture are threatened. In fact, globally, one in three employed women works in agriculture.
Less than 20% of landholders worldwide are women. In rural areas, the gender pay gap is as high as 40%. While reducing the gap in labour force participation rates between men and women by 25% by the year 2025 could raise global GDP by 3.9%. If women in rural areas had the same access to agricultural assets, education, and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased, and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million.
The theme for this year’s International Day of Rural Women is “Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19,” to create awareness of these women’s struggles, their needs, and their critical and key role in our society.  The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on 15th October 2008. This new international day, established by the General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18 December 2007, recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”
There are many organisations around the world which support the activities of rural women apart from Governments. Training equips them with the skills to pursue new livelihoods and adapt technology to their needs. Govt announces different schemes and policies but these should be planned taking practical inputs. (With direct inputs from UN publication and feedback may be sent to [email protected])