Rural women make up nearly half the agricultural labour force around the world. They grow, process and prepare much of our food. They are the backbone of rural communities, and in many households they have the key responsibility for food security, education opportunities and healthcare.
But the effects of climate change and environmental degradation are forcing many rural women to migrate, increasing instability for their families and communities and creating an obstacle to development and growth.
Natural disasters, together with recurrent slow-onset crises like drought, affect rural women disproportionately, adding to the challenges they already face in accessing food, healthcare, education and information.
Many rural women move in order to find more productive land and improve their lives and those of their families. But migration can increase their isolation and marginalization. Others are left behind when male family members leave to seek opportunities elsewhere. Both groups need the support of the international community, as an integral part of the debates around migration and development.
Simple changes in policy can benefit rural women and help them to cope with the effects of the changing climate. For example, regulating remittances and reducing transaction costs can empower rural women economically, so that they can build the resilience of their families and communities. Training and access to information on climate-resilient agriculture and technology can make a critical difference. But too often, these are considered to be men’s issues and women are excluded from benefitting.
As we consider how we can better respond to the movements of refugees and migrants, I call upon everyone to take the special needs and concerns of rural women into account.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises to leave no one behind. To deliver on that, we must help rural women to thrive, and to access the support and information they need, so that they can fulfill their potential without leaving their communities.