The idea of honoring rural women with a special day was put forward at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. It was suggested that October 15 be celebrated as “World Rural Women’s Day,” which is the eve of World Food Day, to highlight rural women’s role in food production and food security.
CARE celebrated the International Rural Women’s Day in the Garu-Tempane District by acknowledging the contribution of rural women to the development of the nation. The theme of this year’s celebration was “The Critical Role and Contributions of Rural Women in Enhancing Agriculture and Rural Development, Improving Food Security and Eradicating Poverty”. To grace this day, CARE collaborated with the Garu-Tempane District Assembly, the Department of Agriculture, Grassroot Sisterhood Foundation(GSF), Presbyterian Agricultural Station-Garu, Chiefs, and female leaders as well as community members. These participants were chosen because of their strategic role in supporting rural women to improve food security and rural development. A total of over 160 participants from 37 communities were in attendance.
The District Chief Executive(DCE) Mr. Alalzuuga stated that women are the unsung heroes in the rural areas struggling to keep their families and yet the only acknowledgement given them for this tremendous contribution is that ‘behind every successful man, there is a woman’. According to Mr. Alalzuuga, despite the fact that smallholder farming in most developing countries has a woman’s face, women farmers are too often invisible and under supported when it comes to investment, policies, and programmes. This reality ultimately affects the lives of rural women, men and children, and is standing in the way of food security.
In response to the contribution of CARE to the empowerment of women, the Pathways Project Manager Agnes Loriba stated that CARE works with over 20,000 women in the district to increase their access to financial services, improve agricultural productivity and build resilient livelihoods through the adoption of climate change adaptation strategies. Madame Loriba added that the Garu Tempane District is among one of the first districts CARE started work in Northern Ghana and CARE’s intervention has improved the livelihoods of more than 20,000 women.
It has long been recognized that although globally women do the majority of agricultural work, many development initiatives have failed to fully integrate the needs of women and create an enabling environment to enable them effectively engage and benefit from the outcomes of development. CARE International in Ghana recognizes the role rural women play in society as an important step in the sustainability of development. At the heart of CARE programming is the empowerment of women, who are key players in national development, especially in the agricultural supply chain.
Madam Loriba concluded by stating that we can only bring out and enjoy the full potential of rural women when stakeholders;
1. Strengthen collaboration with traditional leaders to improve rural women’s secure access and control of land.
2. Create an enabling environment that encourages the private sector to provide financial services, effective input and output market systems that benefit rural women.
3. Legalize the work of rural farmers with clearly defined remuneration and good conditions of service.
4. Increase investment in the agricultural sector with the targeted focus of supporting rural women engage in resilient agriculture.
Madam Fati Alhassan (Executive Director, GSF) stated that when women have access to productive land it results in improved food security, enhanced economic independence, increased knowledge on women’s land rights, and secure tenure thus boosting their confidence to participate in community conversations on land governance and development. She emphasized this could only be possible if we strengthen state mechanisms that empower women and ensure women secure land tenure, ensure effective harmonization and consolidation of laws, policies for consistency in protecting women’s land rights, and reduce to minimum evictions of rural small scale farmers particularly women.
The Department of Agriculture representative reiterated the importance of the Village Savings and Loans Association(VSLA) and that the VSLA has improved farmers credit recovery rate to an extent that some communities achieve hundred percent in recovery.
Asibobo, a community member and a Gender Champion of Songo, added her voice. According to Asibobo, through CARE’s intervention rural women have been empowered resulting in improved power relations within households, communities and society at large. She said women are now included in decision making at both household and community levels. Women leaders were able to fight for the release of a parcel of land to a widower whose land was confiscated after the demise of her husband.
Gender Advisor, Madame Gladys, in her closing remarks congratulated the rural women on their hard work and edged them to keep it up. She stated that for the cities to feed it is the rural women who make it possible. So where ever they may find themselves and whatever they are engaged with they should do it and do it well.