Empower rural women to end poverty

Men and women are affected by poverty, but studies show that giving economic aid to women makes a bigger impact on child nutrition, health, and education. Empowering rural women may be the key to ending poverty.

Pervez Masih/AP/File
Pakistani women carry water on their head after collecting it from a reservoir on U.N. World Water Day, in Hyderabad, Pakistan, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Empowering rural women could result in better results for impoverished areas.

Atop a hillside, in the remote village of Gitega, Rwanda, 27-year-old mother of two Jeanette Uwimanimpaye wakes up at 5am to begin her day.

Many of the women in Jeanette’s village farm for a living. The ones who don’t farm work as porters— they carry bricks that are made in a nearby valley up to the nearest road, more than an hour’s climb up, at a price of 2 Rwandan Francs (less than one cent) per brick. These are the only two options for women in Gitega to earn an income, Jeanette says.

“One of the greatest challenges women living in my village face is poverty,” Jeanette says. “Men can earn more than the women because they are able to find jobs in town, whereas the women have to stay in the village to care for their children and house throughout the day.”

Around the world, 75 percent of people living in poverty depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Many of these people are women just like Jeanette. While rural poverty affects both men and women, research suggests that putting more income in the hands of women leads to improvements in child nutrition, health and education. The economic empowerment of rural women— through increased access to livelihoods training, education, and health and financial services— is key to reducing rural poverty across the globe.

One Acre Fund’s comprehensive 4–part model is designed to help rural women improve their farms’ productivity, increase their incomes, and grow their way out of hunger and poverty. With increased income comes increased purchasing power— farmers are able to invest in livestock and small businesses, pay for their children’s education and health care, and even bring running water to their homes.

Even with programs like One Acre Fund to help them, Jeanette and women like her still must work incredibly hard to ensure their families’ survival. This rural women’s day, Jeanette provides us with a glimpse of what day-to-day life is really like for her and her family.

After waking up, Jeanette sweeps her compound to start the morning with a clean home. Her two sons, Jerome, 5, and Isaac, 3, wake slowly after her and make their way out of the bedroom. After sweeping, she helps Isaac dress and feeds both children.

Once the children are dressed and fed, Jeanette locks up the house and together they walk to her field. Today, Jeanette’s farm work involves preparing the soil for planting, which she must do using nothing but her hands and a hoe. Jeanette’s husband, Antoine, works as a brick-maker, so his time to help with farm duties is limited. It will take Jeanette a full week working alone to fully prepare her fields for for planting.

Later on, Jeanette walks over to another part of her farm, where she harvests some sweet potatoes to cook for lunch. Before she begins cooking, she must scrub the pots and utensils from the night before with dirt to clean them, peel and wash the potatoes she harvested, shred cabbage, dice tomatoes—all with a handle-less knife. She then cooks it all on a three-stone fire in her mud hut kitchen. The entire process takes her two hours without a moment’s rest.

“The work I enjoy most is cooking because it means I have food for my family,” Jeanette says. “When I’m done, I see that they are happy and full—it in turn makes me happy too.”

Jeanette and her sons sit to enjoy the food she’s cooked, and later her younger sister joins them. Jeanette and her sister were orphaned in 1994 when their parents fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo at the height of the Rwandan genocide. Their parents fled with three of her five siblings, while Jeanette and her sister were left behind. She says since that day, they have never heard from their family again.

Both Jeanette and her sister used to struggle to feed their children, but since joining One Acre Fund, they both have enough food to feed their families for the entire year.

“Not only does more harvest mean more food,” she explains, “but having enough food at home often means there will be peace between the husband and wife when there might not have been before.”

In the afternoon and evening, Jeanette will attack a seemingly endless list of other chores and activities she plans to do before the sun sets—visit the market, more cooking, more land preparation. Before heading off to market, she smiles and encourages us to visit again. She is eager for us to share more stories of the resilient women in her community.

In remote areas across sub-Saharan Africa, women are responsible for growing the food that will feed their families and communities. Solutions to boost the productivity and incomes of rural women can directly reduce poverty and increase food security in the world’s most vulnerable regions. As the development community works to achieve the sustainable development goals, we must remember that rural women are central figures in the fight to end global hunger.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Empower rural women to end poverty
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Business/The-Bite/2015/1106/Empower-rural-women-to-end-poverty
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe