THIS month of October has three consecutive days with interlocking questions that are commemorated on the United Nations calendar. October 15 is the International Day of Rural Women and this year’s theme is “Rural Women Cultivating Good for All”. October 16 is World Food Day and the theme is: Leave No One Behind; better production, better nutrition. While October 17 is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and its theme is: Dignity for All in Practice. Rural women, food security and poverty create a nexus of our contemporary rural experience where poverty and food security are strongly gendered.
In Zimbabwe, women are on the brink of food security. Gender equality in rural areas has been reduced to a topic debated in parliament and various conventions, but thwarted by cultural forces; and traditional reactionaries. In addition to being morally right, achieving gender equality and empowering women is essential in the fight against extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition in rural areas of Zimbabwe.
According to the recommendations of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in the poorest areas, equalizing opportunities for women and men could increase agricultural production by 2.5 to 4% and reduce malnutrition rates. from 12 to 17%. Ownership of land and livestock, fair pay, participation in decision-making bodies and access to resources, credit and market, however, all face severe direct and indirect discrimination in Zimbabwe.
The physical and mental health of women and girls is increasingly at risk due to alarming increases in gender-based violence, commercial sex for food and survival, child marriage (where girls are forced to dropping out of school) and unpaid care and domestic work. Cases of child marriage have increased in Zimbabwe, with some leading to maternal deaths of minors forced into the institution of marriage due to poverty and food insecurity.
The main theme of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty for the years 2022-2023 is dignity for all in practice. Not only is human dignity a fundamental right in itself, but it also serves as the foundation for all other fundamental rights. Therefore, “dignity” is not a vague idea; on the contrary, it belongs to everyone. Many people living in poverty today witness the denial and disregard of their dignity, especially rural women.
The 2030 Agenda once again alluded to the promise made by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by committing to eradicate poverty, safeguard the environment and ensure peace and prosperity for all. Stakeholders in their quest for poverty reduction in Zimbabwe must act with this mandate in mind to put in place sound and transformative policies that include a gender perspective within the framework of food security and poverty eradication. poverty.
Inequality and poverty are not inevitable. They are the result of deliberate actions or omissions that violate and undermine the fundamental rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society. People caught in extreme poverty find it harder to get out, and their humanity is denied, due to the silent and ongoing violence of poverty, which includes social exclusion, structural discrimination and powerlessness. . Women’s empowerment is achievable despite obstacles, poverty reduction is achieved through political will, and food security is guaranteed through sustainable synergies between institutional actors.
Most rural women in Zimbabwe lack the capital to start sustainably or to expand existing livelihoods. Most rural women do not have access to credit facilities that can provide them with sufficient capital to start or expand the businesses they want. It was realized that credit facilities can be offered by banks like the Agricultural Bank of Zimbabwe, but women may not have the collateral required to access these credit facilities.
Furthermore, the evidence currently available regarding the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic actually points to worsening inequalities and continued violations of the rights of women and girls, as well as extremely disadvantageous circumstances that make women more susceptible to the effects of natural disasters.
Due to the informal and survivalist nature of the economic activities in which women engage, there are reports of increased incidences of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and financial instability. To promote the resilience and recovery of women in rural areas, it is imperative that policies and programs address these gaps.
Rural women make up 56% of communal farmers in Zimbabwe. Although they frequently work in agricultural value chains, women rarely progress beyond subsistence farming. Many rural women have had restrictions in their ability to participate in this sector due to transportation restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
This has aggravated livelihood deficiencies with ripple effects even up to this date when travel is permitted.
UN Women Zimbabwe conducted a country-wide gender assessment of COVID-19 and the lockdown process, which indicated that women reported a greater burden of caring for children, doing household chores and caring for themselves. perform other regular household and community responsibilities.
These roles have remained tightly linked to them even in the absence of confinement. The survey also revealed that, regardless of gender, rural poverty is characterized by a lack of access to agricultural resettlement, community and commercial areas as well as to land, animals, agricultural equipment and resources. other necessities for efficient agriculture. Women’s access to cash and their participation in household spending decisions are linked to gains in household food security and nutrition, as they tend to spend a higher percentage of their income on food. family food than men.
Although women are the key figures in agriculture and food security, gender inequality is holding back progress towards ending hunger, poverty and creating sustainable food systems in Zimbabwe. The International Labor Organization has reported that 15% of landowners in developing countries are women and that more than 40% of the agricultural labor force are women. These statistics combined with the above issues are essential for food security and poverty reduction initiatives. Therefore, the empowerment of rural women has the potential to significantly benefit society as a whole as it can boost production, improve food security and nutrition, the economy and human capital of future generations. that will encourage long-term economic progress.
Let us honor the contributions of these heroines of the global food system on these three international days and demand that rural areas provide fair opportunities for all. This way we can have food security and eradicate poverty.