EMPOWERING RURAL WOMEN

Women are the most important stakeholders in making the world a peaceful and progressive place to live in. It is really an irony that despite acknowledging that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world and knowing that empowering women will ultimately empower the nations in true letter and spirit, this most significant lot continues to be at the receiving end tolerating all sorts of discrimination and injustice at the hands of the male -dominated society especially in the underdeveloped and the developing world even today. As the world celebrates this year’s International Day of Rural Women tomorrow, it is time to focus on the plight of rural women who are facing a lot of challenges, flag mark these challenges so that those concerned will take note and act accordingly to address the issues facing these women. The theme for the International Day of Rural Women this year is “Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All”, and it highlights the essential role that rural women and girls play in the food systems of the world. From production of crops to processing, preparing and distributing foods, women’s labour, be it paid or unpaid, feeds their families and communities and the world. Yet, they do not wield equal power with men, and as a result, they earn less income and experience higher food insecurity. Despite our planet’s capacity to provide sufficient and good food for all, hunger, malnourishment, and food insecurity are rising in many parts of the world. The COVID-19 pandemic along with climate crisis, have made matters worse: some 2.37 billion people did not have enough to eat in 2020 –that’s 20 per cent more than the year before. The general position of women across the farming communities reveals that most of the food consumed in the society is produced by rural women and unfortunately, these women have no access to mechanised farming equipment, thus depending only on poor manual tools, which are energy consuming and ending in poor results. In a substantial number of countries it is the women in rural areas who are duty- bound to carry the produce from farms to selling destinations and in view of absence of good roads, transport or storage facilities, they watch helplessly and hopelessly their produce harvested after much labour getting spoilt on this count. Power supply for most rural dwellers continues to be a dream. How great a rural woman is, can best be realized from the fact that after hectic labour for the whole day she drags herself into the kitchen and starts cooking for the whole family. It is pertinent to mention here that most rural women in the under-developed and the developing world usually cook with firewood that leads not only to pollution but becomes a health hazard for these women. On the other hand in such rural areas in Africa and some other nations the men rarely do anything to fulfil the family requirements except gathering together in the name of elders’ meeting, where they relax by resorting to boozing. Here it is worth mentioning that the incumbent PM Narendra Modi has been quite instrumental in ameliorating the status of rural women in India by launching multiple social welfare schemes for them which have enabled the rural women in getting rid of the tedious process of fire wood cooking as they have been provided cooking gas stoves free of cost. Moreover, the power supply position in rural areas has been put on top priority. It needs to be realized by one and all across the globe that a woman who does so much to sustain a family deserves the respect of all and must be celebrated! While wishing the hardworking rural women a ‘Happy International Day of Rural Women’ it is hoped that the governments in underdeveloped nations across the world, especially in Africa, emulate the policy programmes launched by the incumbent NDA government for improving the living conditions of women in Rural India!