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UN secretary general wants rural women empowerment a human right

Thursday, March 08, 2012    

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UNITED Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for a widespread commitment from member nations to gender equality and the empowerment of rural women "as a fundamental human right".

In his International Women's Day message, observed that while rural women and girls make up one quarter of the global population, they "routinely figure at the bottom of every social indicator, from income and education to health to participation in decision-making".

"Gender equality and the empowerment of women are gaining ground worldwide. There are more women heads of state or government than ever, and the highest proportion of women serving as government ministers. Women are exercising ever greater influence in business. More girls are going to school, and are growing up healthier and better equipped to realise their potential.

"Despite this momentum, there is a long way to go before women and girls can be said to enjoy the fundamental rights, freedom and dignity that are their birthright and that will guarantee their well-being," he said.

He said the problem is nowhere apparent than in the rural areas.

"Numbering almost half a billion smallholder farmers and landless workers, rural women are a major part of the agricultural labour force. They perform most of the unpaid care work in rural areas. Yet rural women continue to be held back in fulfilling their potential," he observed.

"If rural women had equal access to productive resources, agricultural yields would rise by four per cent, strengthening food and nutrition security and relieving as many as 150 million people from hunger. Rural women, if given the chance, could also help end the hidden development tragedy of stunting, which affects almost 200 million children worldwide," he added.

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