“If women farmers had the same level of access to resources that men have, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent—vital gains at a time when about one in seven people goes hungry. No wonder the UN declared the theme of International Women’s Day 2012 Empower rural women—end hunger and poverty.”
Thursday, March 8, 2012 is International Women’s Day. It seems an opportune time to share a few facts and figures about how women are doing around the globe. The following statistics are provided by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). They are sobering numbers.
- Sixty-six percent of the world’s work falls on women’s shoulders, yet they earn only 10 percent of the world’s income.
- Worldwide in 2008, nearly 800 million people over the age of 15 could neither read nor write—and two-thirds of them were women.
- Early pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in developing countries, excluding China.
- In developing countries for which data are available, women account for only 10 to 20 percent of landowners.
- On average, women make up 43 percent of the agricultural workforce in developing countries.
- Women in Africa access only 1 percent of total available credit in the agricultural sector.
- The highest echelons of political power and decision making remain off limits to the vast majority of women: A 2010 UN report notes that only 7 of 150 elected heads of state in the world are women, and of the world’s 500 largest corporations, only 13 have a woman as a chief executive officer.
- In the majority of countries, women’s wages are 10 to 30 percent lower than men’s.
If it seems hard to be a woman farmer in the United States can you begin to imagine the realities our sisters in developing countries are living with? On March 8, or whenever you happen to read this, please give some thought to what you might do to honor those women struggling in ways we cannot begin to understand.
To learn about how to join this initiative go to the 2o12 International Women’s Day website. At the website you will find ways to get involved, inspiring stories of women succeeding against all odds, and more statistics that track the health and welfare of women around the world.
Please share your ideas on how we might all get more involved and make a difference in the lives of rural women in 2012.