|Meal time in a rural village in the Pwani region of Tanzania/Photo credit: Veronique Mistiaen|
Today is International Day of Rural Women.
Here in the West, it might not mean much, but rural women absolutely deserve a day of recognition. This new international day was set up by the UN in 2008 to 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.”
Rural women do feed the world. They are key for achieving the transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. But limited access to credit, health care and education are among the many challenges they face, which are further aggravated by the global food and economic crises and climate change. Empowering them is key not only to the well-being of individuals, families and rural communities, but also to overall economic productivity, given women’s large presence in the agricultural workforce worldwide.
The first step in helping rural women to get the rights and tools they need to thrive is to let their communities, countries and the world – especially policy makers - know what an amazing job they do and what enormous challenges they face. So, I was pleased to see this “Women’s Travelling Journal on Food” initiative by the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition (ARWC), PAN AsiaPacific (PAN AP) and Oxfam’s East Asia and South Asia GROW Campaign.
Now on its third journey, the travelling journal, “Our Stories, One Journey: Empowering Rural Women in Asia on Food Sovereignty” aims to highlight the important roles of rural and indigenous women in agriculture and rural development, improving food security, coping and adapting to climate change, and eradicating rural poverty.
The journal is a compilation by 45 Asian rural women from Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan who share the daily activities related to food in their homes, farms and communities and amplify their demand for food sovereignty, climate justice and secure rights to land and resources. The travelling journal will culminate with the publication of the women’s stories on March 8, 2015 on the commemoration of the 102nd International Women’s Day.
“The travelling journal gives women a voice to share their lives and their struggles. Many have written that the journal initiative has been an enriching experience, increased their awareness and strengthened their solidarity with other rural women and communities,” said Sarojeni Rengam, executive director of PAN AP and Steering Committee member of the ARWC.
Watch the Women's Travelling Journal on Food Sovereignty teaser
She added that, “the journal comes at a time when Asian rural women are more marginalised and food insecure than ever, facing the onslaught of land and resource grabbing, corporate agriculture and neo-liberal policies which benefit a few corporations and countries, and elites.”
Norly Grace Mercado, East Asia GROW Campaign Coordinator, pointed out that women’s stories on how they cope with and adapt to climate change is very crucial “since climate change affects production and exacerbates hunger. Women are in charge of ensuring the family’s food security. They are also the ones overburdened when climate disasters strike.”