By Patience Mashiri
The International Women’s Day (IWD) comes on the backdrop of a plethora of challenges being faced by rural women in developing countries. Rural women bear the brunt of economic hardships, patriarchal cultural systems, gender violence and discrimination among other challenges. The discrimination against and sometimes total exclusion of women from participating in the mainstream economy affects, not only their socio-economic status but the economy of their countries at large. Without doubt, 80% of labor force in the agriculture sector is provided by women yet their gains are limited. The underperformance of the agriculture sector in most developing countries emanates from the lack of resources and opportunities for women to make the most productive use of their time. In some communities, decisions on how to spend household income, generated by women, is made by men. Furthermore, unpaid care work remains a key issue were women are not recognized for the “unproductive” input they contribute.
The theme for IWD 2020 is #EachforEqual calling for collective action in creating a gender equal world. The theme looks at the idea that every individual is part of a whole, and that an individual’s actions, behavior, thinking can have an impact on the whole society. The theme recognizes all the actions individuals take challenge stereotypes, and how they can fight prejudice, and in the same light celebrate women’s achievements. IWD is a time when rights groups’ and women’s advocates reflect on how far women have come, advocate for what is still needed, and call for action to continue breaking barriers. This year’s theme also looks at generation. Equality is focusing on issues facing women across all generations, with young women and girls at the center. The year 2020 is an important year in gender equality as it marks 25 years of implementing the Beijing Platform for Action, the historic and landmark gender equality plan drawn up in Beijing.
The International Women’s Day therefore, serves as an opportunity to reflect on the challenges faced by women and craft policy options to deal with these challenges. The IWD is celebrated annually on March 8 and has occurred for well over a century since the first IWD in 1911. It is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is not for any single group, but celebrated together by governments, women’s organizations, corporations and charities. International Women’s Day is a day that aims to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, and is a call for parity.
IWD and Rural Women
Women in Agriculture mostly work as farmers on their own account, as unpaid workers on family farms and as paid or unpaid laborers on other farms and agricultural enterprises (FAO, 2011). Women face a lot of challenges when it comes to agricultural production. In Zimbabwe about 86 % of women depend on land for their livelihood and food production for families, with rural women making the majority of small holder famers (FAO 2017). It is clear that women’s work is essential for food security. Even the time women spend on production testifies to this. Women work 16-18 hours a day, spending at least 49% of their time on agricultural activities and about 25 % on domestic activities (FAO, 2017). It is estimated that women contribute about 70% of agricultural labor and the bulk of them are found in the subsistence sector (Bhatasara, 2011).
In Zimbabwe, rural women yearn for access to markets, currently dominated by men; they want to own their own piece of land; they need access to inputs and productive resources. Fundamentally they want an equal share at the table. Addressing these fundamental challenges faced by rural women, will be the success of IWD, when more women have space they can meaningfully contribute to the growth of the agriculture sector. Rural women envisage that states and other duty bearers provide a transformation of rural women’s lives. Hence, the IWD is more meaningful to the rural woman, a day that on which they celebrate their achievements when they can say, now we are truly equal. One thing for sure, national, international and sustainable development goals cannot be achieved without the full participation of women. The Zimbabwean Government in its Food and Nutrition Security Policy states that women have a central role in agriculture (GoZ, 2012). Therefore, there is a real need to put in place supportive strategies to ensure that women’s roles are enhanced without negatively affecting their other roles such as childcare provision, food processing and food trading.
One thing is certain, International women’s day means different things to different people. Each woman will have reached certain milestones that are worthy to be celebrated. Some achievements were fought for by all women and together we celebrate these key milestones. Though it is an international day celebrated the world over, in some cases rural women in developing countries do not know that there is a day set aside for them, set aside for their rights. Rural women are the largest constituency affected by discrimination in so many ways as previously indicated. To the majority of rural women, IWD is a day that exists in the horizon. It is a day that floats by with no knowledge in sight of its impact. There is need to hold outreach campaigns so that the rural women in Zimbabwe are made aware of such important days, what they mean to them, and to educate them mostly on their rights as rural women and opportunities available to them. Evidence points to the fact that women work the land, but at the same time women do not own the land. There is need for Government to allocate more land to women so that they have better decision making in terms of productive resourcing and they can concentrate on production.
- Bhatasara S. (2011). ‘Women, Land and Poverty in Zimbabwe: Deconstructing the Impact of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme.’ Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa, Vol. 13 No 1
- FAO. ( 2011). Fact Sheet: Zimbabwe – Women, agriculture and rural development. Food and Agriculture Organisation. Rome.
- FAO. (2017). National Gender Profile of Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods – Zimbabwe: Country Gender Assessment Series. Food and Agriculture Organisation. Harare.
- GoZ. (2012). What_Works_for_Women Decent Work Country Programme for Zimbabwe (2012–2015). Government Publishers. Harare