This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives.” For many rural women across the world, there is not always the chance to become involved in the conversation about the array of issues that affect them, ranging from economic security, women’s health, and political representation. A large proportion of these women never receive proper education or even leave the villages that they live in.
Though rural women make up a quarter of the world’s population, they are left behind in every measure of development. In order to help empower women in all settings, and to reduce poverty and gender inequality, women must stand up for each other. Empowered women must fight to give their sisters a voice to end suffering in rural areas. To fully fight gender inequality, we must rise up for women that do not have access to basic needs.
In rural India, nearly 60% of women are employed in the agriculture sector. Farming is often perceived as male-dominated, but the actual truth is quite different in India. Many of these women do not own land rights to the land that they are tending to, leaving them with little access to credit and no pathway to government funded schemes. Only 9.3% of women who farm actually own the land, according to the Indian National Sample Survey Agricultural Census.
Moreover, more men and youth are departing India’s farms to migrate towards urban areas, leaving many of the women behind to tend to crops, but these women still lack the rights that come along with land ownership. Fortunately, there has been an upsurge in cooperatives and self-help groups that work with female farmers. The groups are bringing these women together to inspire change, build finances, and educate and train one another. These groups are often focused on sustainable farming, and promoting environment-friendly efforts will help ensure that various sustainable development goals are met, including most notably Goal 5 for Gender Equality and Goal 13 for Climate Action.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is perfectly relevant to today. In the U.S., women are speaking up and marching across urban cities, louder than ever, about the issues that have affected them for years. Similarly, in India, as more and more women become educated through self help groups and cooperatives, they are able to acquire a voice on long-standing issues that previously had no solution. This is only the beginning, but we will be most successful when we join forces. Whether rural or urban, women across the world are helping the planet move closer to ensuring a more inclusive society and to finding new solutions to the challenges ahead. Those of us who are fortunate enough to receive education and join the workforce must stand up for those who are not; the time is truly now.