Empowering Rural Women

The following article and photo presentation was produced by the International Labor Organization (ILO) Department of Communication.

The International Day of Rural Women 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.” The International Labour Organization (ILO) marks this day by showing what it does to help empower rural women around the world through helping them gain access to work that is just, decent and sustainable. The ILO maintains a team of over 50 development focal points to better integrate decent work into rural economic development.
Presentation | 15 October 2014

A look, in photos, at what the ILO is doing to connect women in rural areas with decent work.

The ILO is working to promote skills in the rural sector and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, over 2,900 women entrepreneurs were trained to start their own business. Not only did the women say the training boosted their confidence, a follow-up survey showed that one new business has been created for every two entrepreneurs trained. Two jobs were created for every two entrepreneurs trained and two jobs were added to each new business which was started after training, including the job of business owner.
© Evan Schneider / UN
Paid employment opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa are scarce and the vulnerable employment rate, at 77.4 per cent in 2013, remained the highest of all regions. Africa’s population is growing faster than anywhere else. The informal economy in sub-Saharan Africa is around 54 per cent. Cooperatives are fundamental to economic empowerment in rural areas and small villages. With ILO training and financial support, micro-insurance has been provided for 10,000 cooperative members, mainly women. In Ethiopia, around 6,300 women and seven women’s cooperatives have benefited from credit and business management training.
© Sonii David / Community Eye Health
Women and girls are regularly exposed to unacceptable forms of agricultural work in rural areas, but are often more vulnerable than their male colleagues in accessing support and voicing their concerns. Measures to protect all workers from unacceptable hazards and forms of work directly benefit women and girls. In El Salvador, the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) is working to combat child labour in rural communities by increasing women’s capacity for employment or entrepreneurship. Diminishing household dependence on child labour is at the core of these efforts. To date more than 2,400 women have been trained through project activities.
© Ben Beiske / Flickr
The ILO is active in environmental rehabilitation in Haiti. An ILO/UNDP/WFP joint project for natural disaster prevention and environmental rehabilitation in the Artibone Region implemented water and soil conservation projects that provide income and enhance agricultural produce. The programme provided combined food and cash payments and generated jobs of a 25-day duration to 3,600 households. Half of these are headed by women.
© CE / ECHO / M. Bernardez
In the area of agricultural value chain development, the ILO is striving to ensure gender equality and prevent the repetition of traditional patterns of gender discrimination, where poor and uneducated women remain in lower paid, less skilled and more insecure work. In northern Peru, Café Femenino is a brand of organic coffee created, grown, processed and owned by women. The product is sold in the US and Canada as fair trade. Inspired by these efforts, women in other Latin American countries have begun their own Café Femenino programmes. Organic and fair trade premiums have led to better nutrition in coffee-growing areas, as well as improved sanitation, new wet-processing mills and many miles of new roads.
© Miguel Alvarez / AFP
Training for Rural Economic Empowerment, or TREE, is an ILO community-based programme in Asia and Africa. In rural Pakistan, female trainers educated rural women at home because social norms restrict them from getting trained outside their homes. As a result, many of the trainees experienced increased mobility, self-esteem and socioeconomic empowerment.
Decent work must also include social protection. But for women living in rural areas, it can be difficult, if not impossible to access benefits like healthcare or cash transfers. In Cambodia, the ILO is working with the government to facilitate access to social protection through a single window service. The first offices of the Social Service Delivery Mechanism (SSDM) were opened in June 2014. By the end of 2016, all communes of the Siem Reap province should have an office, thus allowing rural women access to healthcare, cash transfers and other social protection benefits.