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Rural Women to be given Greater Recognition

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Contact: Rose Marie Harris

October 21, 1999 - A top UN spokesman says there is overwhelming evidence that development plans can succeed only if they address the needs and the priorities of both women and men. In a message to a high level meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO, in Rome the Secretary General Kofi Annan said rural women play a critical role in agricultural production and the rural economies of developing countries.

He noted that as farmers and entrepreneurs in the informal rural sector, as unpaid family workers on farms or in small enterprises, rural women’s contribution is essential for the subsistence of their households and communities.

According to Kofi Annan "Despite these contributions, rural women are among the most disadvantaged sections of the population. Women farmers can labour up to twice as long a week as their male counterparts, yet for all their hard labour most of their efforts are not visible, recognised or reported in official statistics and economic development plans." In effect, rural women are forgotten when policies that affect them are made."

Agreeing with the statement, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. James Fletcher says in Saint Lucia his ministry is at present involved in two projects both of which benefit rural women. In fact the Ministry is now in the process of finalising a project with the Food and Agricultural Organisation, aimed at strengthening extension services in Saint Lucia. One of the key components of that project is the participatory rural assessment, which has a specific gender bias where greater gender sensitivity is inculcated into the programme.

The troublesome and lingering issue though, is that of instituting mechanisms which would help in measuring the economic contribution of the women folk. Dr. James says this is the way forward, as this has been cited as one of the hindrances causing the lack of focus and attention and commendation the work of rural women.


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