In Saudi Arabia, in May 2013, women are allowed, for the first time, to practice as lawyers. It is a very important achievement for Saudi women but it draws attention to a shameful situation; in the second decade of the 21st century, in many countries in the world, women are still seen as second-class citizens.
A sustainable environment, the eradication of poverty, better healthcare and full literacy cannot be achieved when half of the world’s population has no or limited access to the means and methods of development.
Whether is African women learning solar engineering in India, Kyrgyzstan farmers selling milk to other villagers, or Saudi women defending their rights in court, women are in an unique position to better their lives and the lives of their families.
It is said that if you educate a girl, you educate a community. As the main care-givers, women will pass on the knowledge to their children, ending the cycle of poverty. Healthier women will give birth to healthier children, bringing a reduction to child and birth mortality; healthy infants can live longer, develop better, mentally and physically.
Fafoune Kontao, from a small village in Mali, became a community leader, with the help of a UN program. She is very proud of the developments she helped create:
“Men are less violent and they contribute to the family expenses, they go the town hall to establish birth certificates for their children and register their marriages. Women are coming to pre- and post-natal consultations. Girls are no longer willing to go abroad to be used as housemaids in big towns. The religious leaders think twice before deciding to celebrate early marriages and young girls are shy when they contract early pregnancy. They therefore have more opportunity to continue their education and develop normally both physically and mentally.”
Women from rural areas don’t know their rights and entitlements. In Moldova, Bureaus of Services and Information offer support and funding on issues from job-seeking to land ownership. It has helped women make informed choices and earn money.
Making markets safer in Fiji, creating support groups in the villages of Tajikistan, providing better cooking stoves in Ghana, teaching women farmers irrigation techniques in China, these are just a few examples of ways in which women can play a more important role in development.
As Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil, said :
“For many, we women are ‘half the sky’. But we also want to be half the earth with equal rights and opportunities, free from all forms of discrimination and violence.”
Photo-essays(at the bottom of the page): http://www.unwomen.org/2012/10/the-role-of-women-in-rural-development-food-production-and-poverty-eradication-2/