This week, government officials, representatives from the United Nations, private sector officials, and rural women will convene at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW56). The focus of this year’s session will be on improving the situation of rural women and the elimination of hunger and poverty, as well as current challenges to development.

UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet stated, “Rural women and girls comprise one in four people worldwide and they constitute a large share of the agricultural workforce. Listening to and supporting rural women is fundamental to ending poverty and hunger and achieving peace and development that is sustainable…Research shows that empowering women is not just good for women. It is good for all of us – for peace, the growth of our economies, for food security, for human security – in short, for the well-being of current and future generations.”

Rural women face significant discrimination in terms of their access to public services, social protections, local and national markets, and employment opportunities. For instance, UN Women reports that women in rural sub-Saharan Africa have access to less than 10 percent of available credit. In addition, women make up the majority of the unpaid labor force.

CSW56 calls on policy makers and national governments to make greater investments in initiatives and community-based schemes to benefit rural women. According to UN Women, “If rural women had equal access to productive resources, agricultural yields would rise and there would be 100 million to 150 million fewer hungry people.”

Currently “925 million people were chronically hungry, of whom 60 percent were women.” Moreover, 884 million people in the world lack access to potable drinking water; 2.6 billion people do not have access to sufficient sanitation facilities; and 1 billion people to not have adequate access to roads and transportation systems.

UN Women 2/27/12; UNFPA 2/23/12

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