Status of Women

Forum at UN discusses role of rural women farmers

NEW YORK — Listening to and supporting rural women is fundamental to ending poverty and hunger, and achieving peace and development that is sustainable.

That was the message from Michelle Bachelet, executive director of UN Women, who opened the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women here on 27 February 2102.

The main theme of the 56th Commission was “the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges.”

To support the theme, the Bahá’í International Community issued a statement [see story] and hosted a forum on 1 March, co-sponsored by the World Farmers Organization (WFO), offering a space for rural women farmers to share their experiences.

The story of one — Cesarie Kantarama from Rwanda — was typical of the challenges that face many of them. When she started out she had little land and no capital or support. “But once I joined the women farmers’ association, I started to get training and knowledge which reinforced my confidence,” said Ms. Kantarama. “It really starts when you are a member of an organization that gives you the confidence to seek out other opportunities and feel productive.”

The importance of access to knowledge was reinforced by Alice Kachere of the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi. “You can give women better seeds, but if they don’t know how to use those seeds, it means nothing,” she said.

WFO president Robert Carlson emphasized Michelle Bachelet’s point about the importance of careful listening. “We can’t impose our views of what rural women farmers need,” he said. “There has to be some local involvement that gives direction on how their needs are to be assisted. They need to set their goals.”