Today, October 15th, we celebrate the International Day of Rural Women. Established in 2007 by the UN General Assembly’s resolution 62/136, the annual observance recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.” The observance serves to not only applaud the many contributions made, but also raise awareness around the many challenges and inequities still facing most rural women globally.
As noted in the UN Secretary-General’s annual message, the disparities that continue to exist are particularly noteworthy in a year that also marks the 30th anniversary of the only international human rights treaty to address the rights of rural women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This doctrine calls upon us all “to ensure that women fully participate in rural development; have access to health care…training, education, credit and loans; and benefit equally from infrastructure investments…”
Agros International has always recognized and supported the critical role of women in building and nurturing thriving communities, families, and individuals. Women in Agros villages are not only working the family’s crops, they are also successfully raising their children and managing the home. A great number of them are at the same time advancing their studies to better their future opportunities, taking on loans and successfully managing income-generating microenterprises, and holding elected offices making important decisions in village community leadership. Inspiring isn’t it?
It is probably no surprise, then, that a cornerstone of Agros’ model has always been to ensure that women get equal billing on the title of land ownership—both the husband and the wife’s name is on the land title. Owning land for the first time in their lives is a major step forward for women and a tremendous sense of personal pride; getting equal recognition and reward in the eyes of the law for their contributions is an important component to building equity in other areas of community development.
More amazing still are the women who do it alone – work the land, raise the children, go to school, manage small businesses and contribute to village leadership – working towards attaining their land title.
One such example is Juana from the village of San Diego in El Salvador. While her husband left her with five children to raise alone, she built a life for her family through hard work and a hopeful spirit. During the war in El Salvador she and her family sought refuge in Honduras, surviving difficult conditions. When they returned after the peace agreements and learned of Agros, Juana and her family were one of the first to join the community of San Diego. Partnering with Agros has been one of the most important decisions she ever made because with land of her own, she can take care of her children. In San Diego, her oldest son Nelson helps her cultivate corn and beans and diverse vegetables. Juana is also one of the first in her community to start a tilapia project where she and business partners earn $2/lb. for the 150 – 200 pounds of fish they farm on average each quarter. She’s also an active member of the Women’s Committee, working on a multitude of projects to improve the lives of women and youth in her community. Through these activities, Juana can send her children to school and provide them a more stable home than she ever had.
Through much hard work and determination, Juana is expecting to pay off her land loan very soon. She still has a bit to go, but is determined to see the day when she can take her title to her land as a single working woman, and share the rewards with her children and their children for generations to come.
We invite you to recognize and pay tribute to the many achievements made by so many in the face of great adversity on this International Rural Women’s Day. In honor of this special date, please consider making a difference in the life of a rural, poor woman in an Agros village who, like Juana, is working hard to make a meaningful change in their lives. Make a Women’s Small Business Loan today!