Rural women make up more than a quarter of the world’s population. In Africa, about 80% of the women population live in rural areas – agriculture is their major source of income. This reality was affirmed during the 62nd session of the United Nation Commission conference in New York which sought to examine the challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. In her opening statement Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (Executive Director of UN Women) urged all participants to see this forum as a perfect opportunity for building alliances, focusing on acceleration and implementation of regional as well as global declarations to achieve gender equality and women empowerment.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka addressing a session hosted by Ilitha Labantu on challenges of rural women empowerment
Photo credit: Sibulele Sibhaca
Women and girls in rural areas still encounter difficulties including gender violence, high maternal mortality rates, child marriage, HIV/AIDS, FGM, conflict and natural disasters. Most are directly linked to gender inequality and structural barriers which causes power imbalances. These barriers are worsened when women are excluded from governance mechanism, leadership and decision-making or representation in local and national institutions which diminishes their voice. All these must be urgently addressed for Africa to realize its development aspirations in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063.
WACI Health together with other civil society in South Africa are making frantic efforts in advocating for political will in governments developing policies and programs to protect women such as the National Strategic Plan on Gender-based Violence (NSP GBV), bring gender justice, improve their health outcomes and end gender violence
Minister of Women Bathabile Dlamini expressing that women should lead the struggle and shaping response in gender-based violence
Photo credit: Sibulele Sibhaca
Participants at CSW62 called on all stakeholders to address the limited access to quality social services, infrastructure, energy and labor saving technology, and tackle other inequalities.
To build in a bright future – invest in adolescent girls and young women!
There has never been a more critical time to invest in young people than now! With regards to health and development, young people have been overlooked and left behind many times. There are about 1.8 billion young people globally and nearly half of these are adolescent girls and young women.
Adolescent girls particularly those entering adulthood encounter numerous challenges including discrimination, gender violence, poor education and health outcomes, reduced opportunities and choices – their voices are often unheard. As for serious health risks, young women (15 to 24 years) are facing a triple threat. The highest risk of HIV infection is found within this group. In sub-Saharan Africa, young women account for 74% of new HIV infections. In addition to this, young women and girls have the lowest rates of HIV screening or testing and poor adherence to HIV treatment.
Investing in young girls and women indeed is a game changer. For example, this International Women’s Day celebrations WACI Health joined hands with other Kenyan civil society in calling for all stakeholders across multiple sectors to champion health of adolescent girls and young women by recognizing their issues as important, improving national programs and policies (tailoring Sustainable Development Goals and Global Strategy on Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health effectively) as well as increasing funding to ensure that young people survive, thrive and transform the world.
When educated, healthy, equipped with the right skills and opportunities; adolescent girls and young people hold the keys to unlocking many of the world’s pressing problems in poverty reduction, advancing gender equality, catalyzing national social and economic development, stopping HIV, maternal mortality and gender violence among many others – investing in the survival and success of the next generation.
As leaders of today and tomorrow, adolescent girls and young women can be a force for social change!