In recognition of International Rural Women’s Day 2023, celebrated under the theme “Rural women confront the global cost-of-living crisis,” UNOPS and UN Women have united to highlight the invaluable contributions of rural women in Africa and emphasize the necessity of investing in gender-sensitive infrastructure to empower these unsung heroines in the development of their communities.
Rural women play a vital role in agriculture, with over 70% of food production on small farms attributed to them. Yet, less than 15% of landholders worldwide are women. If these women were granted equal access to land, tools, technology, and support, they could potentially boost food production by up to 30%, potentially elevating nearly 150 million people out of poverty.
The campaign by UNOPS, UN Women, and the Ministry of Gender calls for support to rural women, providing them with access to farming inputs, land, markets, and small loans. This support will contribute to creating more equitable societies where women are duly recognized and rewarded for their dedicated efforts.
With over 50% of Africa’s population residing in rural areas, the pivotal role of rural women in bolstering regional economies and combating poverty is undeniable. However, they face significant challenges in securing essential agricultural resources, which hinders their productivity and resilience in the face of climate change. Gender disparities in agriculture are proven to impact the economic growth of countries, ranging from 13% to 28% of GDP, which can translate to lifting thousands of individuals above the poverty line in each country.
UNOPS, in collaboration with UN Women, offers gender-sensitive solar energy infrastructure services to enhance women’s access to essential resources, education, health, and more, ultimately enabling them to adapt to climate change. For instance, the Rural Renewable Energy Project (RREP) implemented by UNOPS in Sierra Leone has provided solar mini-grid systems in 14 districts, facilitating access to electricity for safe childbirth, particularly significant during nighttime deliveries. The project has also empowered rural women through training by Barefoot Women Solar Engineers of Africa to fabricate, install, and maintain solar-powered household lighting systems. Funding has been provided to women-owned businesses to leverage new electricity sources by purchasing appliances.
Through joint efforts with the Gender Technical Team, UN Women is supporting women’s civil society groups and the Ministry of Gender in Sierra Leone. Activities include technical assistance for constitutional and land tenure policy reviews, support for the Sierra Leone Parliamentary Female Caucus (SLEFPAC), gender equality bill sensitization trainings, and gender training for women across various levels of governance.
This campaign underscores the significance of empowering rural women and building infrastructure that enables them to drive social and economic progress while combatting poverty and achieving gender equality. The collaboration between UNOPS and UN Women showcases the unwavering commitment to uplifting these women and amplifying their vital contributions to their communities and the world. MJB/16/10/2023