This year’s theme of October 15, which has been celebrated as International Day of Rural Women since 2008, is “Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19,” to create awareness of these women’s struggles, their needs, and their critical and key role in our society.
Women and girls are disadvantaged in this pandemic, a problem aggravated in rural areas. Rural women, with a crucial role in agriculture, food security and nutrition, already face struggles in their daily lives. Now, since COVID-19 and their unique health needs in remote areas, they are less likely to have access to quality health services, essential medicines, and vaccines. Restrictive social norms and gender stereotypes can also limit rural women’s ability to access health services. Furthermore, a lot of rural women suffer from isolation, as well as the spread of misinformation, and a lack of access to critical technologies to improve their work and personal life.
Despite all of that, rural women have been at the front lines of responding to the pandemic even as their unpaid care and domestic work increased under lockdowns.
We need measures to alleviate the care burden and better redistribute it between women and men, and between families and public/commercial services, espcially in the most marginalized remote villages . We need to advocate for sufficient infrastructre and services (water, health, electricity, etc.) to support women’s productive and unpaid care and domestic work, which is exacerbated by the crisis.
The pandemic has also heightened the vulnerability of rural women’s rights to land and resources. Discriminatory gender norms and practices impede women’s exercise of land and property rights in most countries and COVID-19 widows risk disinheritance. Women’s land tenure security is also threatened as unemployed migrants return to rural communities, increasing pressure on land and resources and exacerbating gender gaps in agriculture and food security.
Gender-responsive investments in rural areas have never been more critical.