By Jessica Ashley Merkley
The current climate regarding women’s rights and gender equality is unprecedented. Ongoing efforts by those in support of closing the gaps between the sexes have ignited acknowledgement that the tides are turning and actionable change is happening. Against this same backdrop, the UN Commission on the Status of Women, is set to begin this week at the United Nations in New York. This particular forum is the largest involving gender equality and women’s rights.
Although the world has been gripped by the happenings in the United States, involving the #MeToo media campaign, as well as the #TimesUp campaign, the message has not been met with the same power in rural locales. This has therefore kept progress regarding the rights of women from happening.
Women Executive Director for the UN, Phumzile Milambo-Ngcuka spoke on this issue that seems common across rural areas around the globe, where women’s rights seem at a standstill.
“At the heart of leaving no one behind, is leaving no one out. One of the single most impactful contributions to achieving the 2030 Agenda would be to level inequalities for women and girls in rural areas. Significant progress for them is progress for the whole Agenda, and for the world.”
Women residing and working in rural areas have the power to bring change, due to their roles in food production and distribution. They are imperative to the security of the global food market. Such women can also be leaders in the transitioning of sustainable energy in the household, which leads to leadership in the management and conservation of natural resources, in addition to the regeneration of land and forests.
Reports indicate, however, that rural women are worse off than rural men or than women residing in an urban setting due to the remaining gender inequalities and discrimination that exists. Such studies, also brought forth at the forum, indicate that “rural women and girls are disproportionately affected by poverty and have unequal access to land and natural resources, infrastructure and services, and decent work and social protection. They are also more vulnerable to the adverse impact of environmental and climate change.”
The 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, will focus on issues relevant to gender equality and empowerment of all rural women and girls. Key topics will be that of infrastructure and technology, education and health- which involves their sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights- as well as bringing an end to all forms of violence and harm against women.
“Leaving no one behind” is the motto for this week’s forum. The time for change is now.