top of page

October 15: Celebrating International Day of Rural Women

Updated: Dec 1, 2023




Introduction

The International Day of Rural Women in 2023 serves as a poignant reminder of the resilience, strength and contributions of rural women worldwide. Discussions surrounding rural women too often focus solely on their struggles, which paints them as victims rather than acknowledging their significant roles in society. At NITE TANZARN IntellectNest, we believe in honouring the remarkable contributions of these women and the tangible and intangible advantages that rural living affords them. Yes, challenges do exist; for further reading on those, kindly refer to our extensive research reports. However, today we wish to illuminate the myriad benefits that rural women enjoy. This article aims to celebrate, not denounce, their lives and contributions.


Why Have a Specific Day Dedicated to Rural Women?

While March 08 is celebrated as International Women's Day—a day dedicated to honouring and uplifting women on a global scale—you might ask, "Why do we need a separate day to recognise rural women?" The answer, while appearing to be straightforward, has its roots deeply embedded in the unique roles that rural women face in their communities.


At NITE TANZARN IntellectNest, we pen this article with the full awareness that the participation of women in these distinct roles often comes without the advantage of energy-saving or labour-saving technology. This situation significantly affects how these women use their time and often results in what is termed 'time poverty.' It is not our intention to instrumentalise women or trivialise their experiences. Rather, we are here to celebrate the realities of rural women and their invaluable contributions to their communities. Our advocacy is geared towards achieving equality and equity in voice, power, work, time-use, and resources between women and men.


Rural Women as Primary Healthcare Providers

In many rural areas, healthcare facilities are scarce, and access to medical professionals remains limited. Given these circumstances, rural women frequently assume the role of primary healthcare providers, taking care of the sick and elderly. They often act as the first point of contact for health-related matters, utilising home remedies and basic first aid to manage minor ailments and injuries. The services they provide in these settings are invaluable, bridging the gap where formal healthcare systems fall short.


Moreover, although not formally categorised as primary healthcare providers, traditional birth attendants (TBAs) play a pivotal role in rural and remote areas. These attendants are the initial point of contact for expectant mothers and are, in the vast majority of cases, women. Their contribution further amplifies the essential nature of rural women in the realm of healthcare.


Rural Women as Essential Transporters

In rural communities, women frequently take on the indispensable role of transporters. They carry out a range of activities that are essential to the well-being of their families. These include carrying head loads, fetching water, collecting fuelwood, and taking produce from gardens to marketplaces.

Fetching water is often a daily task, requiring women to travel significant distances. The water collected is crucial for household consumption, sanitation, and sometimes agricultural use. This labour-intensive task underscores the key role that women play in securing water resources for their communities.


Fuelwood collection is another critical activity, as wood serves as a primary source of energy for cooking and heating in many rural settings. Women navigate challenging terrains to collect this essential resource, their expertise honed by years of experience.


When it comes to agriculture, rural women are frequently responsible for the food that ends up on their families' tables. After growing and harvesting produce in their gardens, women then transport these goods to their homes. Some even go beyond domestic consumption and take the surplus produce to local markets. This not only contributes to household income but also links rural produce with broader markets.


Thus, rural women serve as the vital cogs in the transportation wheel of their communities, from natural resources to agricultural produce. Their role, demanding both physical strength and deep-rooted knowledge of their environments, is crucial for the day-to-day functioning of rural areas. It highlights the resilience and resourcefulness of women who are central to both their families and communities.


Rural Women as Primary (Informal) Educators

In rural areas where educational facilities like pre-primary schools or daycare centres are scarce, women often become the primary educators for their children. They impart basic numeracy and literacy skills and instil moral values, thereby laying the foundation for future educational pursuits. In some communities, especially those where zero years of schooling is the norm, these women are often the first and only educators their children encounter.


Rural Women as Primary Socialisers

Given the differences in work settings between urban and rural areas, the role of women in socialisation is noteworthy. In urban areas, women frequently work outside the home, whereas in rural settings, women typically work at and around the home. This proximity to the home environment elevates the importance of rural women in the socialisation process. The family serves as the primary site for socialisation, and rural women assume the role of primary socialisers, instilling cultural norms, ethics, and social values in the younger generation.


Ensuring Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)

In numerous rural communities, the onus of fetching water and upholding sanitation largely falls upon women. They ensure water, sanitation, and hygiene—commonly referred to as WASH—which are pivotal for the health and well-being of the community. These women often travel long distances, sometimes several times a day, to fetch water from clean sources. They are also responsible for the judicious and safe use of this water for various household needs, from drinking to cleaning and cooking.


Rural Women: Household Food Security and Nutrition

Rural women are integral to the well-being of their communities, particularly when it comes to household food security and nutrition. They perceive these two aspects not as distinct but as closely related components of family health. Responsible for a sequence of tasks—such as growing, harvesting, storing, and processing food—these women create a continuous cycle aimed at ensuring both the quality and availability of food for their households.


Their roles are multifaceted, involving more than merely providing meals. They possess a nuanced understanding of seasonal cycles, local produce, and effective storage methods. This expertise allows them to balance the food produced for sale with what is stored for future use, ensuring sustainability until the next harvest season. They are also skilled in proper storage techniques to protect produce from pests, and many maintain backyard kitchens to provide access to vegetables throughout the year.


Moreover, their roles extend to guaranteeing that the food consumed by their families is nutritious. With a deep understanding of local foods and traditional cooking methods, rural women serve as guardians of family health. They prepare balanced meals rich in essential nutrients, thereby directly affecting the health and well-being of their families.


In addition, rural women also serve an educational function within their households by imparting values and information about healthy eating to their children. This fluid shift from securing food to educating about nutrition positions them as essential figures in sustaining not just their immediate families but their broader communities as well.


Rural Women and Sustainable Practices in Agriculture

In the agricultural sphere, perceived limitations for rural women frequently become strengths when it comes to environmental sustainability. Their lack of access to advanced agricultural tools and resources nudges them towards adopting practices that are inherently climate-smart and regenerative. For example, the use of simple tools encourages minimum tillage, which in turn reduces soil erosion and promotes soil health. Their restricted access to synthetic fertilisers naturally channels them towards organic farming methods. Similarly, limited land availability often results in intercropping, a practice that not only maximises yield but also improves soil fertility and minimises pest infestations.


In these rural settings, chickens are commonly allowed to roam freely, thereby enriching the soil with valuable manure. Additionally, certain vegetables proliferate naturally, requiring no formal planting; this contributes to biodiversity and offers further nutritional options for families.

Rural women also take on the responsibility of managing small livestock like chickens, rabbits, and even mice. These animals, often raised in free-range conditions, provide a continuous supply of organic manure, reinforcing the cycle of sustainability and enriching the agricultural lands they manage.


Stewards of Local Ecology and Traditional Knowledge

Rural women frequently possess a rich repository of traditional knowledge concerning local flora, which they utilise for both nutritional and medicinal purposes. Additionally, they are well-versed in the types of firewood best suited for specific tasks, be it cooking or heating. Far from being mere gatherers, these women serve as stewards of their local ecology. They are entrusted with the sustainable management and effective use of these natural resources.


Their roles extend to conservation practices that benefit not only their immediate families but also their broader communities. They engage in resource management techniques that promote sustainability and ecological balance. For example, they often recognise the importance of leaving some plants in the ground to ensure regrowth in the next season. Their deep-rooted knowledge of the land and its resources, combined with their active participation in resource management, makes them indispensable for the environmental conservation efforts of their communities.


Women's Role across the Spectrum of the Rural Economy Value Chain

In the narrative surrounding the rural economy, the spotlight is often singularly cast on agriculture. However, the contributions of women are far more expansive and diverse, permeating every node of the value chain from production to entrepreneurship.


  • Production:In sub-Saharan Africa, women make up approximately 50% of the agricultural labour force, demonstrating their essential role in the cultivation of crops and rearing of livestock. Furthermore, they are actively involved in off-farm activities that contribute to local economies.

  • Processing:At the processing stage, women are pivotal figures who add value to raw agricultural produce. They engage in activities ranging from milling grains to preserving fruits, thereby extending the shelf life and increasing the market value of local products.

  • Distribution and Marketing: When it comes to distribution, women stand at the frontline as vendors and traders. They are responsible for bringing products from the farm to local markets and even engaging in cross-border trade, thereby expanding the reach of rural economies.

  • Entrepreneurship:Women are not just participating but leading the way in the rural entrepreneurial landscape. From running small businesses to heading cooperatives, they inject innovation and drive into rural communities.

Women's roles are not only diverse but also integral across the entire rural economy value chain. They not only participate but excel in roles that range from being primary producers to ingenious entrepreneurs. Their multi-faceted contributions fuel the rural economy, underscoring the fact that their roles extend well beyond the often stereotypically assumed realm of agriculture.


Advantages of Rural Living for Women

Rural living offers a bouquet of benefits that are particularly advantageous for women. Here are some of the notable perks associated with residing in rural settings:

  1. Natural Environment: Rural areas are synonymous with abundant green spaces, fresh air, and tranquil surroundings. These natural attributes are enriching to rural women.

  2. Lower Carbon Footprint: Being attuned to nature often translates into a lifestyle with a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to urban dwelling. This alignment with nature not only nurtures a sustainable living ethos but also plays a crucial role in the broader fight against climate change.

  3. Climate-Smart Agriculture: Rural settings serve as a fertile ground for the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices. This not only aligns with environmental sustainability but also empowers women with the knowledge and skills to manage agricultural resources efficiently.

  4. Health Benefits: The health advantages of rural living are substantial. The physical activities inherent in rural professions, coupled with a relatively pollution-free environment, are conducive to both physical and mental well-being.

  5. Fresh Organic Food: The ready access to fresh, organic food in rural settings enhances both physical health and overall well-being.

  6. Peace and Quiet: The quieter, more relaxed pace of life in rural areas can be a refreshing change, likely contributing to reduced stress levels and fostering mental tranquility.

  7. Lower Cost of Living: The typically lower cost of living in rural areas can be economically empowering for women.

  8. Community:Rural communities often exhibit a strong sense of unity and camaraderie among residents. The close-knit nature of these communities facilitates meaningful relationships, providing a supportive network that can be particularly beneficial for women, who rely on social capital as a key resource.

  9. Space:Rural living usually offers more space both indoors and outdoors, allowing for larger property sizes and homes which can contribute to a comfortable and spacious living environment.

  10. Self-Sufficiency:The opportunity to grow one's own food, raise livestock, and engage in other self-sufficient practices in rural areas promotes a sense of independence and self-reliance among women.

  11. Lower Crime Rates: The generally lower crime rates in rural areas can enhance a sense of safety and security, contributing to a more peaceful living environment.

  12. Simplicity:The simplicity of rural life can be a major draw, enabling a less complex and more fulfilling lifestyle.'

These advantages collectively contribute to creating a nurturing and empowering environment for women in rural areas, promoting a lifestyle that is not only fulfilling but also sustainable and community-centric.


Concluding Reflections

On this International Day of Rural Women, at NITE TANZARN IntellectNest, we toast to these phenomenal women who make invaluable contributions to their communities and revel in the multifaceted benefits that rural life offers. Our celebration highlights the positive aspects of working in the rural economy, such as freedom from pollution, lower carbon footprint, ease of practicing climate-smart agriculture, and the health benefits of utilizing human labour, without delving into the statistics that depict rural women as beasts of burden.

Rural women are enablers, sustainers, and the true heroes of sustainable development.


Call to Action

Join us in advocating for the rights and recognition of rural women. Their contributions are indispensable for sustainable rural development, and it's high time we amplify their voices. Engage with our posts, share your stories, and let’s work together in fostering a society that acknowledges and supports the vital roles rural women play. Your engagement matters. Share the posts, comment with your insights, and help us in driving a meaningful dialogue. Together, we can catalyse change and create a more equitable and inclusive rural landscape.



About NITE TANZARN IntellectNest

At NITE TANZARN IntellectNest, we champion the cause of gender equality, intellectual growth, and inclusion across vital sectors such as transport, agriculture, and rural development. With a mission encapsulated as a "Catalyst for Change," we aim to provoke thought, ignite power, and inspire innovation in the realm of women's rights and gender equality. Our core values steer us towards fostering an environment of thought leadership, authentic engagement, and climate-smart practices. Through our advocacy, we envision creating a ripple effect of positive change that transcends societal boundaries, underscoring the importance of an informed and inclusive dialogue in driving sustainable growth and equality.


Extended Readings: A Closer Look at Rural Women's Lives

For a deeper insight into the lives, contributions, and the remarkable resilience of rural women, the following resources offer a wealth of information and diverse perspectives. Explore these pages to understand the narratives about rural women from various parts of the globe. Discover the various ways these women are not just surviving, but also thriving and driving change in their communities.


Begin this educational journey and join us in honouring the lifelines of rural landscapes. #NITETANZARNIntellectNest #RuralWomen #EmpoweringRuralWomen #SustainableDevelopment

65 views25 comments

25 Comments


Guest
Nov 04, 2023

As I was reading the article, it took me back to my childhood

Like

Guest
Oct 28, 2023

We always view them as beasts of burden.

Like
Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Oct 28, 2023
Replying to

Your comment touches on an unfortunate but real perception that exists. It is vital to challenge such views and highlight the multifaceted roles that rural women play—as caretakers, breadwinners, and pillars of their communities. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and let us continue to bring awareness and dignity to the lives of rural women.

Cheers,

Nite

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest #RuralWomen #MamasReflectiveMusings #SustainableRuralDevelopment #GenderEquality #AdvocacyForRuralWomen

Like

Guest
Oct 27, 2023

I appreciate why we need to dedicate days to issues or even people. However, sometimes, that is the only day there is a spotlight on these issues and/or people.

Like
Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Oct 27, 2023
Replying to

You raise an excellent point. Designating a day to focus on a cause or a group of people can sometimes have the unintended consequence of limiting our attention to just that day. What is crucial is how we carry the spirit of these commemorative days forward into our everyday actions, policies, and dialogues. Thank you for highlighting this aspect; it serves as a reminder for us to maintain sustained engagement beyond these specific dates.

Cheers,

Nite

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest #RuralWomen #SustainableRuralDevelopment #GenderEquality #AdvocacyForRuralWomen

Like

Guest
Oct 25, 2023

Our mothers, grandmas,,,,we celebrate you!

Like
Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Oct 25, 2023
Replying to

Your heartfelt tribute is a wonderful reminder of the lineage of strength, wisdom, and resilience that exists in our rural communities. The work and love of our mothers, grandmothers, and all the women who came before us have laid the foundations upon which we build today. On this special day, let us not only celebrate them but also work toward creating a world where their contributions are acknowledged and their needs met.

Cheers,

Nite

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest #RuralWomen #OrganicWellness #Mindfulness #WomensHealth

P.S. For future comments, kindly include your name for a more personalised response. We respect anonymity but love to know who we are conversing with.

Like

Guest
Oct 18, 2023

A breath of fresh air. all we ever hear is rural women suffering with this and that. Glad that you highlighted their contribution and some of the advantages of their living in rural areas.

Like
Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Oct 18, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for your positive feedback. It is indeed important to shift the narrative and spotlight the resilience, contributions, and often overlooked advantages associated with rural living for women. Their contributions are the backbone of many societies and it's high time we celebrate them as such. Let's continue to honour and elevate their stories, appreciating the full scope of their experiences and not just the challenges they face.

Cheers,

Nite,

#NITETANZARNIntellectNest #InternationalDayofRuralWomen #WorldFoodDay #EndPoverty Day #WomenEmpowerment

Like
bottom of page