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Who Can Change Living Conditions of Women in Rural Areas?

On the occasion of the "International Day of Rural Women" we focused on the specific living conditions of women and girls in agricoltural areas across the Euro-Med region and pointed the fields in which local actors have the power to drive the change for million of female citizens.


The important role of rural women in democracy, sustainable development and agricultural sector was recognized in 1992 by the United Nations in the "Geneva Declaration for rural women".


As women in rural areas are charged with the well-being of the family and community, traditionally their tasks are connected to collecting water, firewood, food and medicinal plants for household consumption (Seghirate, 2017).


Unfortunately, in spite of their key role and its international recognition in 1992, rural women often do the lowest-quality jobs gaining less income or none at all, as their tasks are often considered as part of their household duties.


In addition, women living in agricultural areas experience specific constraints from marginalization of rural sites: not only they face a lot of daily limitations in the access to services and transport, to training and education, to medical, cultural and sport facilities, but they are also exposed to specific patterns of sexual assault in wartime when rape is used as a martial tactic (UN, 2022).


As everywhere, rural women in the Mediterranean countries play a central role in the socio-economic development of the region, especially for the sustainable use and conservation of resources, for guaranteeing food security of their families and communities and for preserving ecosystems.


In the Middle East and North Africa, nearly 80% of agricultural production comes from small-scale farming. However, women’s contribution in such a kind of farming is often underestimated and ignored, as women are generally unpaid, despite working on some of the hardest and most time-consuming activities. In addition, the domestic work, falling on women, reduces the time they have available to education, recreations and economic activities (Sabater, 2020).


[...] they are also exposed to specific patterns of sexual assault in wartime when rape is used as a martial tactic.

In Europe women managed 28.4 percent of farm holdings (Sabater, 2020), however, as in the Southern shore of the Mediterranean, their priceless work is often carried out informally and results invisible.


The specific conditions of agricultural life prevent rural women from enjoying their rights and make their performance in gender and development indexes worse than urban women since rural life peculiarities add new constraints to those affecting women as a whole.


The issue of rural women is often introduced from a national and international points of view but what can the Local or Regional Governments (LRGs) do? Have they got the capability to mitigate these constraints or even change living conditions of rural women?


Many constraints and discriminations faced by rural women may be managed and at least mitigated by Local and Regional Institutions.

When the Euro-Med Charter was written, its creators (about 50 local authorities and CSOs) thought Local Governments have such a power. Indeed, many constraints and discriminations faced by rural women may be managed and at least mitigated by Local and Regional Institutions.


As a matter of fact, the latter can encourage women participation in associations and in political and civic life by targeting rural women for training activities in politics and in territorial management.


Moreover, LRGs can concretely act to improve services considered pivotal to allow women to enjoy political, economic, cultural and personal life.


Indeed, Local and Regional Authorities may promote rural women’s civic and individual rights by providing services in many fields: they can ensure rural women’s access to hospital facilities and to information on health issues, hygiene and nutrition; they can make the provision of high quality care for children and other dependants available also in rural areas; they can take into account the specific patterns and needs of mobility of rural women and improve public transport for rural and agricultural areas properly.


Not the half of it. Local and Regional Governments can play a role also in promoting education and life-long learning. International data and reports show that in rural areas the gap of schooling between boys and girls is higher than in urban districts (UN, 2022). Taking it into consideration, the Local Authority can work to close such a gap between rural and urban areas. LRGs can also recognise the importance of training and life-long learning to boost and promote women’s entrepreneurial activities in rural areas.


Even in the cultural and recreational sector, Local Authorities have the possibility to positively intervene. Starting from the recognition of the importance of sports, culture and recreational activities for people’s health and well-being, LRGs may ensure that women and men, boys and girls have equal provision and access to sporting, recreation and cultural facilities and activities also in rural areas.


Once again Local and Regional institutions reveal themselves to be invaluable in the building of the future we dream, a future of peace, equality and justice for all, rural women and girls included.


Find a summary of some Euro-Med Charter articles focused on rural women in the infographic below!



References of the article

Sabater, L. (2020). Gender, culture, and sustainability in the Mediterranean. Cultural landscapes and biodiversity in the Mediterranean Basin. Washington, DC:IUCN. Available at https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2020-038-En.pdf


Seghirate, Y. (2017). ‘Mediterranean Women in Rural and Agricultural Communities: Double Jeopardy, Multiple Opportunities.’ In IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook 2017. Strategic Sectors, Economy and Territory. Available at http://www.iamm.ciheam.org/ressources/opac_css/doc_num.php?explnum_id=15651


United Nations (1992). Geneva Declaration for Rural Women. Adopted on February 1992. Available at http://www.un-documents.net/gdrw.htm


United Nation – Department of Economic and Social Affairs – statistics (2022). The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022. Available at https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2022/The-Sustainable-Development-Goals-Report-2022.pdf.


United Nation Secretary General (2022). Conflict-related Sexual Violence. Report of the United nation Secretary General. Available at https://www.un.org/sexualviolenceinconflict/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/auto-draft/SG-Report2021for-web.pdf


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