This year’s theme surrounding Rural Women really takes to heart the special circumstances and problems that women face in rural circumstances. Many things that we are able to take for granted or argue about are not even possibilities for some of these women. Access to health care, access to clean water, safety, the ability to participate in civil society are a few of the many issues. Ingrained patriarchal and feudalist societies create difficult barriers to overcome for women seeking to better their existence.
Several countries have included quotas for women serving in the government or have included language about women’s participation in their constitution. A panelist from Eqypt talked about how the Arab Spring has not been good for women’s participation in Egyptian Parliament. She noted that the women participating in the government is at the lowest level since the 1800’s. She also postulated that having women as part of a quota does not necessarily give women the power of ruling. Many times the ruling party will put women in place as a means of pacification.
A panelist from Sierra Leone talked about how involved women were with ending the war. She described the war as mass carnage, amputation, 2.5 million people displaces and 250,000 women and girls subjected to sexual violence and abuse.
In Brazil, a program created in rural areas to combat domestic violence has helped 33,000 women learn self-esteem, new job skills outside of the traditional female skills which allows greater financial independence and an ability to reject an abusive relationship.
A discussion about what empowerment means followed and for these rural women it meant creating greater women’s constituencies, stronger women’s movements, organizations collaborating with each other – not competing, working with civil society and government entities in collaboration as well.
Something I took away - Peace in these countries is so fragile. Violence against women and girls is almost always a byproduct of war.
Women’s Rights are Human Rights!