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Opinions of Friday, 23 October 2015

Columnist: The Mirror

Let our rural women count

Opinion Opinion

An issue that has been discussed time and time again across nations and at countless international fora for a long time is the role of women in general development and how they can be effectively empowered to utilise the enormous amount of potential they possess.

Though sweeping references are usually made about women, it has been known for ages that rural women, especially, have always borne the brunt of the unjust world order that confronts women nearly everywhere.

Long before the late American singer, James Brown, declared in one of his popular songs that ‘it’s man’s world,’ women had been subjected to discrimination of all sorts, even in so-called civilised societies where they were disenfranchised for a long time.

The lot of the rural woman is particularly pathetic. Though she is an important agent for achieving transformation in many aspects of life in our society, she suffers serious challenges some of which include access to credit, health care and education.

In most rural communities around the world, women are known to have a large presence in the agricultural workforce. They undertake back-breaking jobs on farms in addition to numerous chores at home. These undertakings are, however, not even quantified as work in certain societies.

The Mirror seriously believes that empowering rural women to take charge of their lives is crucial not only to the well- being of individuals, families and communities, but also to the overall economic productivity, given women’s ‘special influence’ when they are given the free hand and adequate support to unleash their capabilities.

Almost everyone knows that women are generally held back by a mix of laws, taboos, religious edicts and other man-made impediments that can be totally removed or at least mitigated through thoughtful actions.

Obviously, we cannot experience enough progress in the lives of rural women without the strengthening and implementation of laws, policies, strategies and programmes that augur well for their welfare. Discriminatory norms and gender stereotypes cannot be erased, if decision makers, most of whom are males, do not act decisively.

Clearer and more effective laws on violence against women, for instance, could go a long way to reduce the numerous cases of aggression targeted at women, which are reported regularly in the media.

Childbirth is a high risk in many rural communities due to the lack of appropriate healthcare facilities or even good enough roads to enable expectant mothers reach the necessary health facilities on time.

The onus of enhancing the lives of rural women does not rest on governments alone. Civil society, the private sector and philanthropic leaders, all have key roles to play to make life more meaningful for rural women.

A happy, healthy, reasonably educated and productive woman is an invaluable asset to all communities. It is our hope that decision-makers around the would realise this and do whatever is possible to make our women, especially all those hard-working ones in the rural areas, realise their full potential in order to help make life better for all of us.