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Delegates Highlight Rural Women’s, Girls’ National, Economic Contributions, But Point to Gaps in Education, Food Security, as Commission Session Continues

Representatives of Member States today delivered voluntary presentations on their national efforts to implement the 2018 agreed outcomes on “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls” as the Commission on the Status of Women continued its sixty-seventh session.

 

The session, which runs from 6 to 17 March, is focused on the theme “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”.  (For background, see Press Release WOM/2221.)

 

Sarah Hendriks, Director of the Policy, Programme and Intergovernmental Division of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), introduced the Secretary-General’s report, “Review of the implementation of the agreed conclusions of the sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women” (document E/CN.6/2023/4).

 

Outlining progress in several areas, including property inheritance, land rights and security, gender discrimination, economic empowerment and financial inclusion, she, however, noted that there have been uneven results across countries and thematic areas.  Since crucial gender gaps — in extreme poverty, food insecurity and rural girls’ educational, to name a few — have risen in recent years, she underscored the need for increased action and investment to accelerate implementation.

 

Country representatives, delivering their voluntary national presentations, reported on both achievements and challenges, with partner countries exchanging comments and posing inquiries regarding best practices.  Delegations and non-governmental organization participants also weighed in through an interactive segment, underscoring the importance of women and girls’ rights, protection and empowerment.

 

Carmen Foro, Vice-Minister, National Secretary for Institutional Coordination, Thematic Initiatives and Political Participation of the Ministry for Women of Brazil, said that President Lula da Silva’s administration has committed policies on women.  In contrast, the former Government took a step back in 2016 when it eliminated, among other things, cash transfer programs, causing cruel impacts on vulnerable populations and Black women in particular.  She also noted the high incidence of violence against rural women, citing a survey — which found that 31 per cent of women farmers have received death threats and 12 per cent have been intimidated — to emphasize the need to expand specific affirmative actions and policies to rectify the situation.

 

Zulpkhar Sarkhad, Vice-Minister for Labour and Social Protection of Mongolia, similarly outlined his Government’s initiatives to improve the situation of its women.  It enacted legislation to combat domestic violence; set up 35 temporary shelters; and established a call centre to enable hearing-impaired people to reach emergency services by text.  To address persisting challenges faced by women due to factors relating to the country’s social development, his Government aims to deepen its reforms on local development policy planning and increase women’s participation at all levels, he reported.

 

Maha Ali, Secretary General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women of Jordan, spotlighted her country’s legislative reforms to guarantee equal wages, flexible working arrangements and social security programmes for maternity leave and childcare; its strategies to improve women’s employment in rural areas; and its community-based activities to prevent domestic violence.  Women now make up 13 per cent of the House of Representatives and 15.4 per cent of the Senate, she said, adding that women also won 25 per cent of municipal and provincial council seats in 2022.

 

Kateryna Levchenko, Government Commissioner for Gender Equality Policy of Ukraine, highlighting similar achievements, said that rural women in her country — comprising 40 per cent of village councils — are actively participating in local governance and decision-making processes despite the onslaught of war.  She recounted the suffering and resilience of several rural women involved in local governance, including one who ensured the evacuation of people and saved community documents while under occupation, as well as another who was found with traces of brutal torture alongside her husband and son in a mass grave.  Despite the Russian Federation’s war, women continued to remain a majority priority for her Government.

 

Also delivering voluntary national presentations were ministers and representatives from Chile, Côte d’Ivoire and Saudi Arabia.

 

The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 13 March, for an interactive dialogue with youth representatives.

 

Review of 2018 Session Theme

 

The Commission on the Status of Women held an interactive discussion to evaluate progress in the implementation of its sixty-second session’s outcome on the theme “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”, hearing voluntary presentations from seven Member States.

 

Introductory Report

 

SARAH HENDRIKS, Director of the Policy, Programme and Intergovernmental Division of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), presenting the report of the Secretary-General on the review theme (document E/CN.6/2023/4), said it drew on information from 52 Member States as well as the Secretary-General’s report reviewing progress made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  The report reviews implementation by Member States on conclusions agreed to on the empowerment of women and girls in the five years since they were adopted.  It includes action in critical areas including the strengthening of normative legal policy frameworks, economic and social policies for the empowerment of rural women and girls, and strengthening voices and leadership of all, she said, adding that the report also considers contextual factors, such as the COVID‑19 pandemic, environmental and climate emergencies, and the cost-of-living and food crises, which have had a disproportionate impact on rural women and girls.

 

She went on to outline signs of progress made, including through practical steps taken to frame normative legal and policy frameworks and curb violence, which have helped redress gender discrimination.  Efforts were also made to address issues of property inheritance, land rights and land security through the recognition of land titles for rural women and indigenous people.  Member States highlighted targeted efforts taken to bolster the economic empowerment of rural women and girls, including increasing financial inclusion through village savings and loan associations and providing subsidies to indigenous or rural families, who have insufficient capital to rent or buy land.  The report, however, noted uneven results across countries and thematic areas, including crucial gender gaps, particularly in the rates of extreme poverty and food insecurity, which have risen in past years, she said.  Further, there also continue to be gender gaps in rural girls’ educational achievement, she said, calling for greater investments to be made in these areas.  In conclusion, she underscored the need for a significant increase in investment and action to accelerate the implementation of agreed conclusions from 2018.

 

Voluntary National Presentation:  Chile

 

ANTONIA ORELLANA, Minister for Women and Gender Equality of Chile, said rural women in Chile showed higher levels of income poverty than women in urban areas.  Highlighting Chile’s progress in strengthening the collective voice and leadership of rural women and girls, she said it works with the Table of Rural Women — a public-private body coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Services, together with rural women’s organizations.  Represented in every region of the country, its purpose is to be a voice for rural women, highlighting local problems, promoting public policies, plans and programmes relating to each area and reducing gender inequities.  Economic empowerment and the right to health are two central issues for Chile’s rural women agenda.  In 2022, her Government allocated about $1 million to a fund, which could be increased to $3.5 million, to provide agricultural women the necessary funds for irrigation systems and to cope with the water crisis, drought and climate change.  A strategy supporting rural women as custodians of their traditional seeds led to, in response to the women’s demand, the Ministry of Agriculture’s ban on glyphosate and other agro-toxins, making Chile the first country of the Americas to create such regulations. Turning to gender-based violence, she pointed out that the rate of violence is higher in rural than in urban areas.  Through a project this year, the Government will be able to adjust methodologies to measure violence against women and make them relevant to rural women, she said, thanking Mexico for allowing for the first time a pilot project survey adapted to rural women.

 

ANDREA MACÍAS PALMA, Regional Governor of Aysén, Patagonia, in Chile, said that more than a century ago, men and women opened paths and established populations in the region, adding that, when they began populating Aysén, 42 per cent were women.  However, history has made rural women invisible, she said, noting her creation of the “Decade of Rural Women” as part of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Rural Women.  Given gender inequalities in agriculture, in terms of access to land and water, local production and its diversity in various areas, as well as to promote rural family agriculture, the regional Government, she said, promoted the development of the agricultural, livestock and forestry sector.  Its programmes incorporate a rural gender approach, and its measures and actions support greater equality for rural and indigenous women.  In addition, a programme for small- and medium-sized enterprises subsidizes businesses led by indigenous women, she said, noting as well a technology programme.  She invited States to promote gender-focused public policies that involve rural women and generate new opportunities.

 

The representative of Argentina, agreeing that inequality based on gender is greater for those living in rural areas, spoke of her Government’s national programme on equality and asked how Chile has mainstreamed the specificities of rural women, especially fishers.

 

The representative of Colombia noted that her Government has prioritized strengthening rights guarantees for rural populations.  She asked how Chile is approaching intersectionality in its public policies for rural and indigenous women and sought information on the impact of rural women’s care work.

 

Voluntary National Presentation:  Mongolia

 

ZULPKHAR SARKHAD, Vice-Minister for Labour and Social Protection of Mongolia, outlined the major works the Government has carried out since 2018 to improve women’s situation by ensuring gender equality and creating a legal framework for protecting the rights of girls and women.  He laid out the details of 10 programmes that ranged from employment support to services to protect victims of domestic violence and measures to meet the needs of rural women and herdsmen.

 

To help victims of sexual violence, the Government has laid down 33 regulations and standards that are being implemented within the framework of the Law to Combat Domestic Violence, he reported.  On the ground, the Government has set up 35 temporary shelters and one-stop service centres; created 906 help teams; created a unified database of electronic records of domestic violence incidents; and set up, along with a webpage for sign language, a call centre so hearing-impaired people can reach police, health organizations, and emergency services by text.

 

Spotlighting Mongolia’s law on Reimbursement of Pension Insurance Contributions of Herders and Self-Employed Persons, he said that as of 2021, 19,100 herdsmen and self-employed persons were participating, and 10,800, or 56.5 per cent, were women.  The law has been in force since 1 January 2020.  The Mongolian Herders National Program, approved by the Government in 2020 and being carried out for the 2020-2024 period, empowers herders by providing them with information and improving their living conditions, social security, productivity, income and profit.  Since the difficulties faced by women are caused by the urban, rural and social development conditions in the country, the Government aims to deepen reform of local development policy planning, increase women’s participation at all levels, and create gender equality, he said.

 

The representative of Canada, commending Mongolia for furthering the empowerment of rural women and girls, requested the representative to elaborate how the policies related to childcare and services for victims of domestic violence facilitated the engagement of women in the workforce.

 

The representative of Kyrgyzstan asked what the main challenges were to Mongolia’s policy achieving gender equality.  Noting that Kyrgyzstan is also a landlocked country, she also asked if there were any specific policy areas regarding least developed countries.

 

Mr. SARKHAD, responding, said the main challenges are based on the lack of financial resources and budget.  However, he pointed out that the Government is keen on providing as many resources as possible to overcome this issue.  The Government has a new law since 2020, he added, which provides good conditions for women “on the job and before the job”.  According to the law, workplaces are expected to have certain areas and allocate time to enable women to take care of their children.  Turning to domestic violence against women, he reported that it increased during the COVID‑19 pandemic.  The Government, however, created special organizations to tackle this crime, including 35 shelter houses nationwide, where women can receive consultations and other necessary services.  In this regard, he also spotlighted the importance of his country’s nationwide advocacy efforts.

 

Voluntary National Presentation:  Côte d’Ivoire

 

NASSENABA TOURÉ DIANÉ, Minister for Women, Family and Children of Côte d’Ivoire, said her Government endorsed three conclusions that it deemed critical from 2018, including strengthening legal and policy directives for gender equality; recognizing the importance of implementing economic policies favouring rural women’s empowerment; and providing opportunities to make their voices heard and hold leadership positions.  To this end, Côte d’Ivoire has crafted policies that enhance rural women’s access to social protections, promoted equal access to education and digital technology, and increased their access to loans.  She went on to highlight vigorous action taken to this end, pointing to cash transfers for 227,000 households, which are equivalent to half the minimum wage, and universal health coverage, which reaches 3.2 million people, including a state subsidy for the most vulnerable, such as rural women and girls.

 

Supportive social policies have also been put in place, she said, spotlighting the strengthening of 121 women’s training and education institutes throughout the country, each a sort of “second-chance school” targeting girls who have been victims of gender-based violence, including forced marriage and deprivation of resources, or have been unable to finish school as they fell pregnant.  Further, she highlighted a $50 million Women’s Support Fund in Côte d’Ivoire that finances income-generating activities, which have already benefited 360,000 women, and the Women and Development Fund, which has enabled 2 million women to access low-interest loans, supplemented with the efforts of non-governmental organizations.  In the context of a changing world, she highlighted programmes that aim to empower women through technology, including one that opens cyber centres throughout rural areas, with a target of 3,000 such labs by 2025.  Women’s training institutes have updated their curricula to include new careers in technology, she said, also noting steps taken to create an integrated system for disaggregated data for women and families.

 

The representative of Morocco, noting Côte d’Ivoire’s efforts to promote inclusion and gender equality, asked how the creation of children’s community centres have helped rural women.  He also asked what measures have been taken to keep young girls in school.

 

The representative of Belgium asked for clarification on how rural women have been included in the drafting of the national plans, strategies and policies which have been adopted to reduce poverty.  He also asked how rural women are represented in official institutions and agencies, such as the National Agency for Support to Rural Development and Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development.  He also requested elaboration on Côte d’Ivoire’s strategy for helping rural women and girls use technology for their economic empowerment.

 

Ms. TOURÉ DIANÉ, responding, noted that many women are no longer in the education system.  Citing various reasons they have left school, she said some are victims of violence, have had children, have married young, were forced into marriage or have families where sons enjoy the lion’s share of resources.  As they are unable to undertake economic activities for those reasons, the centres allow them to pursue other activities, empowering them and their families.

 

To keep young girls in school, classes are mandatory and free of charge, she continued.  Her Government has also established institutes for women’s training — “second chance schools” — allowing girls who have dropped out of school to return, finish their studies and learn a profession.  Since 1975, 121 such institutes have been established.  For the school year 2023-24, there are 24 subjects, including communications and digital technology.  Given the country’s progress in infrastructure, her Government aims to include women in fields such as construction to expand their economic opportunities.  Noting the danger and aggression faced by girls on their way to or from schools as well as, often, a lack of food at home, she said school cafeterias have contributed greatly to keeping girls in school, where they are given free meals.  As of 2020, there were over 57 free school cafeterias.

 

To the question on rural women’s use of technology, she said her country adopted in December 2021 a national strategy for digital development to provide real tools and support women’s socioeconomic empowerment.  Its projects with development partners and the private sector include digital labs as well as women’s training and education institutes, or “second chance schools”.

 

To increase rural women’s interest in technology, her Government is working to electrify all areas throughout the country.  It will also increase fibre-optic coverage with the creation of 3,000 cyber centres, of which 65 per cent are in rural zones, she said, noting as well its work to improve Internet connection speeds.  Moreover, the 121 women’s training institutes will provide women access to digital programmes as well as programmes on combating stereotypes.  Women are present at various levels of decision-making at the political, electoral and civil society levels, she added.

 

Voluntary National Presentation:  Ukraine

 

KATERYNA LEVCHENKO, Government Commissioner for Gender Equality Policy of Ukraine, noted that war has caused new gender imbalances and exacerbated pre-existing gender inequalities in agriculture through livelihood loss, reduced food supplies and increased workloads on rural women.  Yet, women remain a major priority.  Ukraine has ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence; adopted a strategy to ensure equal rights and opportunities; and updated its national action plan on women, peace and security.  Rural women are notably participating actively in local governance and decision-making processes, comprising 40 per cent of village councils.

 

In that regard, she spotlighted several rural women, including Natalia Petrenko, head of the Shulginskaya community, who, under occupation for 42 days, saved community documents and ensured the evacuation of people, and Olga Sukhenko, Motyzhina’s village head, in the Kyiv region.  On March 23, 2022, the occupiers arrested Olga, her husband and son.  After the de‑occupation, their bodies were found in a mass grave with traces of brutal torture, she reported, adding that Olga was 50 years old.

 

She also described the Government’s recovery plan, which identifies key opportunities in the agricultural sector, especially since considerable areas of land are no longer suitable for cultivation.  As many are not aware of the price that Ukraine and its women pay to sow and harvest grain under the fire of missiles and bombs, the international community’s support on food security should imply support for women’s participation and rights, she stressed.

 

The representative of Lithuania said she was inspired that Ukraine has not marginalized women’s rights and gender equality issues since the invasion by the Russian Federation.  She then asked how digitization has impacted women in rural areas during the time of war.

 

The representative of Guatemala asked what the consequences have been in rural areas of the Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion.

 

Ms. LEVCHENKO, responding, said access to digital technologies has been crucial to provide new opportunities for all women.  The Ministry of Digital Transformation has carried out the Internet Subvention Project, which aims to provide Ukrainian villages with high-speed Internet and basic local networks in public facilities, including Wi-Fi.  As educational instruction has increasingly moved online, the lack of fast and stable access in rural areas is a problem for women and girls living in those areas.  Further, the Russian Federation has launched more than 5,000 missiles across the Ukrainian territory, including cities, villages, fertile land and forests.  There is no opportunity to live normally.  About 5 per cent of agricultural land has been damaged, and 25 per cent of cultivated areas have been lost, along with 25 per cent of berry plantations and 20 per cent of gardens.  Currently, the Government is working with United Nations agencies to disseminate information on mine security, including in rural communities, she added.

 

Voluntary National Presentation:  Jordan

 

MAHA ALI, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women of Jordan, noting that priorities related to women’s empowerment were addressed in three reform agendas, said her country introduced legislative changes that guarantee equal wages; a penalty for discrimination in wages for work of equal value; flexible working arrangements; and social security programmes to cover maternity leave and childcare services.  Pointing out that the recent Constitutional amendments are meant to lift restrictions on working hours in certain professions for women, she also said the income tax law introduced affirms women’s right to benefit from tax exemptions for dependents.

 

Detailing laws and strategies relating to women’s employment in rural areas, she spotlighted the Agricultural Workers Bylaw; the National Strategy for Food Security (2021-2030); and a special training course related to food and dairy processing provided by the Ministry of Agriculture.  She also said the Agricultural Credit Corporation provides women with zero-rate loans.  In 2022, Jordan launched the Economic Modernization Vision and Women’s Empowerment Strategy to enhance women’s economic empowerment.  In this regard, the National Strategy for Women in Jordan (2020-2025) and Women’s Economic Empowerment Action Plan (2019-2024) were also created.

 

Turning to domestic violence, she said the Domestic Violence Law enacted in 2017 represents a legal framework to address the issue.  The Ministry of Social Development, through its 18 branches in the governorates, serves as the main hub for social protection and service provision, she added.  The Jordanian National Commission for Women, along with its national and international partners, conducts awareness-raising and community-based prevention activities.  On participation of women in political life, she said women make up 13 per cent of the House of Representatives and 15.4 per cent of the Senate.  In 2022, women won 25 per cent of total seats in municipal and provincial councils, including the Amman Municipality Council, and made up 35.5 per cent of political parties’ membership.

 

The representative of Egypt asked for further details on areas of focus for the empowerment of rural women and on the economic contribution of rural women.

 

The representative of the State of Palestine asked how Lebanon’s recent political reforms have influenced the political participation of women, particularly those from rural areas.

 

Responding, Ms. ALI said that, on the issue of economic participation, the rate of participation of women is not on par with expectations and is among the most important challenges for gender equality, in Jordan and elsewhere.  To address this issue, Jordan has undertaken a strategic and legal framework that includes the promotion of home-based work, opening of childcare centres, adjustment of social benefits, and changes to labour law, which have enhanced the working environment in a way that helps women balance their family and work commitments.  Lebanon is also revisiting its approach to the educational mindset and skills for work to help women meet market demands, as well as paying attention to new issues, such as natural resource management and agricultural development.  Turning to legislative aspects, she said that, while Lebanon has taken steps to regulate the working environment, challenges remain in implementation of such laws and regulations, as well as allocating the required budget.  To address this, her country has made efforts to institute gender mainstreaming in the public and private sectors to respond to the needs of working women.

 

Turning to the question about women’s political empowerment, she highlighted recent Constitutional amendments and changes to election and parties’ laws, which cover all governorates, providing opportunities to enhance women’s participation in political life.  Efforts are also ongoing to advance women’s participation in leadership and decision-making, she said, noting challenges pertaining to the frameworks of elected representatives in the private sector and non-governmental organizations.  However, she noted that Lebanon’s legislation, which governs its political life, is based on the principle of positive discrimination, which led to an increased percentage of women being elected to Lebanon’s eighteenth Parliament in 2016 and to similar subsequent improvements in seats allocated to women in local and municipal councils.  However, the participation of women in the private sector is much less, she said, underlining the need to mainstream gender in different institutions.

 

Interactive Dialogue

 

GABRIEL FERRERO DE LOMA-OSARIO, Chair of the Committee on World Food Security, said the Committee serves as the global food governance body of the United Nations to deliberate upon and drive convergence on global policies to address systemic and structural causes of hunger and malnutrition in support of country-led efforts.  After three years of consultations, Member States are currently negotiating voluntary guidelines on gender equality and empowerment of women and girls in the context of food security and nutrition.  While consensus could not be reached, delaying completion and endorsement of those guidelines, the process is now back on track.  Those guidelines are guided by the conclusions of the Commission’s sixty-second session, which emphasized the strengthening of, among others, the normative and legal policy frameworks to promote and protect the full enjoyment of human rights, as well as implementing economic and social policies for the empowerment of rural women and girls.  He added that he trusts that negotiations will be concluded in the next few months and that a global agreement will be reached.

 

A representative of the Confederation of Danish Industries said all have a responsibility to push for the improvement of the rights of women and girls, including those living in rural areas.  Being economically independent and having a job is a way for women and girls to be empowered.  However, great challenges still remain.  Underlining women’s right to access the labour market and to remain in the labour market on the same terms as their male colleagues, she stressed that cultural, political and societal norms must be addressed.  This includes addressing perceptions regarding women’s capacities to work and their role as caregivers.  Also needed is gender-sensitive legislation prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal pay for equal work.  Companies must adapt to a world that requires flexibility and addresses harassment and discrimination, she added, urging all to join forces and work together in strong partnership across sectors.

 

The representative of the Philippines pointed out that rural women continue to face persistent discrimination in terms of their access to productive resources, services and economic opportunities.  To close the gender gap in agricultural wages, her Government has enacted policies and programmes that enable rural women to access training, informational materials, machines, equipment, facilities and market assistance, among other resources.  Senior citizens, persons with disabilities, young women and indigenous women are also beneficiaries.  She also spotlighted her Government’s mandate on allocating at least 5 per cent of agency budgets on gender and development, as well as its efforts on addressing climate change.

 

TLALENG MOFOKENG, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, stressed that the right to health is fundamental to human rights and a life of dignity.  She urged States to strengthen normative, legal and policy frameworks, reminding them that they have a duty to adopt legislation and undertake other measures that ensure equal access to health care and health-related services.  Underscoring that “there is no place for sex or gender essentialism”, she also called on all States to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

 

The representative of the Inuit Circumpolar Council said her organization represents 180,000 Inuit living across the Artic, from Greenland to Alaska, Canada and the Russian Federation.  Though not all Inuit live in rural settings, the Inuit homeland is, by definition, a remote area.  The infrastructure deficit across the area makes it challenging to uphold the rights of Inuit women and girls.  Like many indigenous populations, Inuit women and girls have been exposed to marginalization and discrimination, she said, recalling a campaign by Danish authorities in the 1960s and 1970s in which Inuit women and girls were fitted with IUDs, some without their consent and without their knowledge.  Many cases resulted in infertility, and there was a clear decline in the expected population.  The violations of the reproductive health of indigenous women and girls are indivisible from their collective rights and must be respected.  She urged the Commission to put indigenous women at the forefront of their agenda again.

 

The representative of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) expressed concern that rural women continue experiencing discrimination and marginalization.  They have limited voice in decision-making at the household and community levels, she said, reiterating that women and girls, including indigenous women, are “resourceful economic agents and positive ushers of change”.  Underscoring the importance of alliances and partnerships, she encouraged States to further learn from each other and collaborate with one another.

 

Voluntary National Presentation:  Saudi Arabia

 

MAHA ALDHAHI, Vice-Minister for Environment, Water and Agriculture of Saudi Arabia, said her country is working to integrate women in all aspects of social and economic activities.   More than ever, they are included in all sectors of society, business and Government.  Citing various statistics, she said her country aims to have 30 per cent women representation in the labour market by 2030.  At the regional level, the female workforce ranks first in the Arab Gulf and the Arab world.   Many resolutions and legislation have been adopted to accelerate women’s participation in the economic, social, cultural and scientific areas.  Legislation has also been adopted to ensure equality in the workplace, including equal pay for equal work.

 

Regarding education, she said Saudi girls make up more than 50 per cent of students in both schools and universities.  In 2020, 57 per cent of all graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) were women.  To support rural development in agriculture, her Government aims to enhance local communities and trade balance, bolster local production, improve food security, and improve rural women’s livelihoods.  It has developed a plan of action for agricultural training, technology, know-how and employment opportunities.  Further, a digital platform allows the management, organization, production, and sales of products that go from farm to fork, beginning with rural women and travelling to the end user.  Turning to lessons learned, she encouraged a clear understanding of the management process, clear communications for stakeholders, a robust digital platform and performance indicators to assess progress.

 

The representative of Egypt requested more details regarding international criteria and international practices.

 

The representative of Indonesia, noting that her country also pays attention to the sociocultural challenges that girls face, asked about Saudi Arabia’s concrete steps to ensure that international best practices and learning are being leveraged in its programmes.

 

The representative of Kuwait asked for Saudi Arabia’s views on best incentives for the empowerment of women in that country.

 

Ms. ALDHAHI, responding that her Government believes in the value of collective work and partnerships to achieve better results, noted that her country is currently partnering with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on technical consultations and advice.  Regarding concrete steps and best practices, her country has notably established an academy that, among other things, provides a virtual programme to assist farmers and enable them to share their practical experiences.  On incentives, she commended her country’s leader, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for being a source of inspiration and momentum to all in the empowerment of women.

 

The representative of Malaysia, emphasizing that rural women are key agents for achieving economic transformation, asked about mitigation measures to address the migration of young adults from rural to urban areas.  She also asked about strategies to attract and retain young women, including in indigenous communities.

 

The representative of Mauritania, commending the experience of Saudi Arabia’s women, asked what the level of response and interaction was between women in the respective programmes and activities.  She also asked whether digital training programmes were available to empower women in this field.

 

The representative of Cameroon asked for advice that would incorporate best practices, other than legislation, that African counties could copy and implement.

 

Another representative of Cameroon went on to ask what could be done to systematically share best practices in other countries.

 

The representative of the Institute of Technology of Costa Rica underscored the importance of active engagement by academia, mainly public universities, with emerging technologies.  Recalling that in 2022 Costa Rica suffered from a cyberattack, she reported that the first digital census was conducted in cooperation with State universities, helping to ensure that citizens’ information was secure.

 

The representative of Cuba, reporting that in her country women constitute 43.3 per cent of the working population, noted that only 21 per cent are economically active.  Moreover, only 57 per cent of women in rural areas have any higher education.  Detailing Government-implemented policies, she spotlighted the advanced maternity law, which includes a maternity leave before and after pregnancy, up to one year.  Turning to the trade and economic blockade, she emphasized that it limits development and other progress achieved by Cuba’s women.

 

The representative of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean said that women in the Mediterranean are a force for conservation, development and growth in the cultural and economic spheres.  They are also playing greater roles in the agricultural sector, which also includes migrant women who have been trafficked, making the situation more complex.  Rural women face difficulty in accessing land, technology and basic services.  She encouraged parliamentarians to share their information to help rural women.

 

The representative of the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs highlighted issues affecting indigenous women, including a lack of access to digital space, insufficient online literacy skills and online harassment leading to offline violence.  Further, there is a lack of legal recognition for indigenous knowledge, which is considered to be in the public domain and used without the consent of indigenous people.  The Commission should provide more space for indigenous women to speak.  They are not only victims but change agents who can promote indigenous rights.

 

Ms. ALDHAHI, responding, said laws and regulations form the basis for her Government’s actions, making implementation of its programmes much easier.  Other enablers include financial and fiscal independence, institutional frameworks, social development programmes and digital platforms and partnerships with experienced organizations, such as non-governmental organizations or international organizations, including FAO.  Rural women are afforded opportunities to reach decision-making positions, she said, adding that those with limited means receive financial support to, for example, increase their farm productivity via new technology.

 

Voluntary National Presentation:  Brazil

 

CARMEN FORO, Vice-Minister, National Secretary for Institutional Coordination, Thematic Initiatives and Political Participation of the Ministry for Women of Brazil, noted that, since January 1, her country once again respects its women, due to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s administration’s commitment to policies toward women in all their diversity.  The needs of rural women and girls will be prioritized by her Ministry, alongside the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Family Farming’s Under-Secretariat of Rural Women, she said.  Brazil’s rural population suffered due to decades of insufficient public investments in the family farming segment, which was recognized as an important economic category under the first term of President Lula  with the enactment of the Family Farming Act, she noted.  In contrast, 2016 led the Government to change course, constituting a step back in action to ameliorate the conditions of women, she said, pointing to the elimination of the Secretariat for Policies for Women, the corrosion of wealth distribution programmes, and the elimination of the Bolsa Família cash transfer program.  As a result, hunger and poverty increased, cruelly impacting the quality of life among vulnerable populations, particularly black women.

 

Women are especially affected by insufficient access to food and water, she went on, noting that women who walk along remote paths to fetch water are vulnerable to acts of violence by neighbours and strangers.  To address that situation, the administrations of Lula and Dilma Rousseff implemented a water access program for human and production use, enabling the storage of water close to homes and production areas, she added.  Turning to violence against women in rural settings, she cited the findings of a survey by the Pastoral Land Commission, which found that 31 per cent of women farmers have received death threats and 12 per cent have been intimidated, adding that such data might underestimate the number of crimes against women, given that many go uncounted.  To address this situation, she underscored the need to expand specific affirmative actions and policies for rural women, who bear the brunt of violence, gender inequalities, and impacts caused by the COVID‑19 pandemic and denialism, among other factors.  Further, she underscored the importance of recognizing the broad variety of rural women in Brazil in designing public policies to promote their inclusion and ensure their protection and independence.

 

The representative of Mexico said he welcomed the report, expressing agreement that gender equality is a pillar for building a diverse society.  The Government of Mexico has looked at the many forms of discrimination against women, particularly ones that impact adolescent girls.  Women in rural areas face a lack of infrastructure, he noted.  Mexico’s population includes 51.1 per cent women and 22.7 per cent of them live in rural areas, he said, adding that these women need access to land.  What actions is Brazil taking to promote the rights and well-being of women and girls?

 

Ms. FORO said Brazil is a very large country with a strategic location and rural women play a central role in producing food for the country.  One important achievement has been that more women now have land registered in their names.  In 2006, only 12 per cent of land was registered to women and policy changes in 2007 increased that number.  The Lula administration, which is only 100 days old, plans to introduce more public policies and programmes that will help women.  This includes programmes to provide technical assistance; those focused on girls’ menstrual health, their sexual and reproductive rights; and giving women and girls greater access to the national health system.

 

The representative of Sudan, noting that women represent 50 per cent of her country’s national population, said the Government is trying to integrate rural women in the labour market.  She requested the representative of Brazil to elaborate on rural strategic economies, based on bilateral, regional and multilateral relations.

 

The representative of Indonesia said his Government has taken major steps to improve women’s and girls’ quality of life in rural areas.  Through the programme “Women, Children, Friendly Village”, Indonesia aims at enhancing participation of women in rural areas, he said, adding that the programme has integrated gender perspective and children’s rights into the village governance system.

 

The representative of Mauritania, noting that women represent 52 per cent of the population, said that 43 per cent of Mauritania’s women leave school.  Noting that negative cultural traditions do not compensate women for their family work, she said women also lack access to property, land and finance.  Spotlighting the law that ensures 20 per cent participation of women in elections and guarantees their role in the army and the judiciary, she outlined the work of civil society in enhancing economic empowerment of rural women.

 

The representative of the United States said her country released a strategy to advance women’s empowerment globally.  Expressing solidarity with women and girls in Afghanistan, she also said the United States stands together with its allies and partners to hold Iran accountable for inflicting violence against women and girls.  She then asked how Member States could collectively ensure that rural women and girls receive the required support.

 

A representative of FAO said women form the backbone of rural economies.  Their contributions are prominent and indispensable in all agricultural subsectors and value chains, but rural women lag in accessing resources, knowledge, services and markets. Digitalization on its own cannot solve the obstacles that women face as economic and social agents, but, if used properly, can significantly improve their ability to act effectively and productively in agrifood systems.  The new FAO report on the status of women in agrifood systems, to be launched on 13 April, will provide the latest data, lessons learned and recommendations for policy and decision-makers about gender in agrifood systems, including insights into women’s access to digital and other technologies.  Empowering women and investing in gender equality is intrinsically important for women’s well-being, but it is also critical for resilient and sustainable agrifood systems.  It can help lift millions of people out of food insecurity.  For these reasons, it is critical to address gender equality and work on women’s empowerment in agrifood systems today and every day, she said.

 

Ms. FORO, responding, said it is mandatory in Brazil for all land titles to be announced and validated by the State or federal Government.  Further, such land titles must be under the names of the man and woman for access to other rural public policies.  Underscoring the importance of coordinated policies, she said the national school meals programme allows for the purchase of women’s production to provide food to schools in the country.  Although some local managers do not like this law, 30 per cent of food purchased must come from family farms.  This has greatly improved women’s financial situation, as well as food security and nutrition.  Also needed is a set of policies for credit, she said, noting that the landmark cash transfer programme “Bolsa Familia” must have an important role for women at their helm.  Further, the housing programme requires the inclusion of women.  Rural women and girls also need a set of coordinated policies for learning and investment in education.  It is critical to address the historic invisibility and inequality that rural women have faced throughout their lives, she stressed.

 

Source: United Nations

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