High percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Rural communities generally rely on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and livestock for their livelihoods. Many rural workers remain poor because they receive low earnings and live and work in precarious conditions, are vulnerable to health and other shocks and have little access to risk-coping mechanisms such as insurance or social assistance.
The creation of decent employment opportunities is one of the most important channels through which rural people’s living standards can be improved – particularly those of women, who are at more of a disadvantage due to cultural norms, limited access to productive resources and time consuming domestic responsibilities.
Rural women and men have long had very different work experiences. Women traditionally produce subsistence crop, manage small livestock, engage in market activities and shoulder household responsibilities and reproductive roles. Men tend to manage activities related to commercial crops and large livestock. Women are more likely to work in the informal sector and are disproportionately employed in low-quality job, including jobs in which their rights are not adequately respected, to receive lower salaries and to work longer hours due to the burden of their household responsibilities. They also tend to be clustered in fewer sectors than men, making it more difficult to switch to better jobs when new economic opportunities arise.
The obstacles faced by rural women in accessing decent jobs are numerous. Social norms dictate that unpaid domestic work is the responsibility of women. The burden of this work, exacerbated by the lack of infrastructure, such as running water, fuel-efficient stoves and electricity, leaves less time for remunerative opportunities.
These same norms, and sometimes even the laws, also prevent women from gaining access to a range of assets, including land ownership and tenure, livestock, infrastructure, education, credit and technology. They are also under-represented in decision-making bodies such as farmers’ associations and generally have a lower say than men in household decisions.
The failure to provide women with equal opportunities is a violation of their human rights. There are also a variety of reasons as to why promoting policies which take gender dimensions into account makes economic sense.
When gender equitable social and economic policies are in place, the potential for women to contribute to the well-being of their families and communities is enormous. It is well that better education and income for women leads to higher household investment in the nutrition, health and education of their children, giving them and the generations that follow a better future. It also to work instead of going to school to help support their families. Today, 215 million boys and girls aged 5-17 are child labourers. Finally, it allows women to contribute more to the social land economic development of their nations.
Creating better decent employment opportunities for rural women and men will require generating better jobs for both through sustainable rural growth, extending social protection to all categories of rural workers, and promoting rural institutions that equally represent women’s and men’s interests. To close the gender gap in access to decent work opportunities, governments should strive to give women better access to public goods, social services and labour-saving infrastructure. Better policies must also be designed to improve women’s control over land (through, for example, joint-titling and land reform programmes), and access to finance, market information and technologies. Programmes should also be implemented to ensure girls and women receive equal levels of education and training. Finally, women’s organization should be supported and promoted.
Anselmo Wami-YET 2011