International Day of Rural Women 2008

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International Day of Rural Women is celebrated on October 15 with festivities and events worldwide. Immediately following, on October 16, is World Food Day, and the proximity of the two days is no coincidence.

Throughout the developing world, women are the primary providers of food security for their families and communities. Rural women grow the majority of the food, up to 90 percent in some regions. They are intensively involved in food processing. They collect cooking fuel and water. They prepare and serve meals, ensuring that their families' daily food requirements are met.

Despite their critical importance to food production and food security, the majority of rural women endure conditions of social marginalization and economic under-development. They are less likely to attend school than men. They have less access to credit, agricultural extension services and land ownership. They have little, if any, voice in decision-making. The disparity between what women do, and the resources they have, is staggering.

What the facts show

Study after study has demonstrated that when rural women are empowered with education, healthcare, access to resources and political participation, there are increases in productivity, nutrition, and standards of living.


  • In Kenya, research shows that a year of primary education provided to all women farmers would boost maize yields by 24 percent (IFPRI, 2000)

  • A study conducted in Burkina Faso showed that reallocating resources from men's plots of land to women's could increase household output between 10 and 20 percent (Quisumbing and Pandolfelli, 2008).

  • In India, a study showed that when women have more education, their children have a better nutritional status, even when other factors are taken into account (Mishra and Retherford, 2000)

  • Studies from Bangladesh, Brazil and Cote d'Ivoire have all shown that when women have access to additional income, they are more likely than men to invest in the education, health, and nutrition of their families (Mason and King, 2001)

Shining a spotlight on the world's rural women has never been more important. The current global food price crisis is pushing millions of people deeper into hunger and poverty. The prospects of achieving an end to world hunger are threatened. Only when rural women are empowered will this be achieved.

The Hunger Project holds the empowerment of rural women as a top priority. Through our programs, rural women are gaining access to credit, literacy training, and other capacity-building resources. They are mobilized to participate in political processes.

On the International Day of Rural Women 2008, The Hunger Project calls on the international community to reallocate resources, so that more rural women can get the tools they need to meet their basic needs and end hunger and abject poverty for themselves, their families and their communities.


IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute). "Women: the Key to Food Security." Washington D.C., 2000.

Mishra, Vinod K. and Robert D. Retherford. "Women's Education can Improve Child Nutrition in India." National Family Health Survey Institute. no 15 (2000).

Quisumbing, Agnes R. and Lauren Pandolfelli. "Promising Approaches to Address the Needs of Poor Women Farmers: A solution to the food price crisis?" Presented at IFPRI at Seminar on Global Food Crisis held on June 17, 2008.

Mason, Andrew D and Elizabeth M. King. "Engendering Development through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources, and Voice." Washington D.C.: World Bank, 2001.