Historically, rural women are powerful, strong and purposeful women who are deprived by the circumstances of abuse, inequality, and lack of opportunities. These challenges have hindered their personal development, economic empowerment, and community leadership.
Rural women make a quarter of the world’s population. As UN women executive director said ‘rural women are the invisible mainstay of community resilience and sustainability.’ Rural women are key contributors to agricultural production, food security, climate advocacy, enterprise, and citizenship. Sadly, the active contribution and the effort of rural women are not recognized and their full potentials underutilized.
As one who has worked with rural women in Nigeria, it has been one of the most fascinating and fulfilling experiences of my life. I have seen women with no prior business or entrepreneurship skill become successful micro-business owners in their community. I have also seen women with no prior education learn and get mentored to be successful in their enterprises. All these were possible because there were basic availability and initiative for their empowerment and development.
When women have empowered they, in turn, contribute to their family’s income and become active change leaders in their communities. It is no gainsaying that if you build a woman, you build a community; and a $1 investment in a woman is a smart investment. When she is empowered, her generation and her family is empowered.
From my engagement with women, there are five keys areas that will lead to the sustainable development and empowerment of women. Done right, these areas will lead to women living confidently, independently and unleashing their full potentials in their communities.
The empowerment and development of women is a heavy but easy task if we all commit little actions with value and lifelong impact as Individuals, development organization, national and international government agencies, private and public companies. it will lead to sustainable community impact and women development
So, how can rural women be sustainably empowered?
Adult Education and Training: Investing and building the capacities of rural women will improve their business, social, economic and financial skills. Capacity building and adult training range from providing adult education, life, and social skills training. Adult education and training (education entrepreneurship) is a huge industry and it can be channeled to help rural women to be empowered. One of the greatest barriers to the sustainable development of women is their lack of access to quality adult education and training. When women have access to quality holistic personal, emotional and entrepreneurial development training opportunities, they will be empowered to speak for themselves. They become confident and can speak up against every abuse and violence. And will not wait for anyone to speak on their behalf but will rise and become voices of positive change and advocacy for equality, justice, and progress.
Vocational Skills and Businesses: Rural women are looking for different ways to be empowered through hands-on skills, entrepreneurship, and micro business expansions. We can contribute to help rural women gain direct vocational skills training or business idea expansion opportunities. By providing them with the basic tools to start, operate, build and expand their businesses. Over the years, rural women have committed themselves to farming, fishing, and trades. Today they eagerly looking for news to enhance their daily living activities and to become more efficient in all sectors within their community. Agencies can design women development programs that are focused in providing core skills programs that can help them access markets to sell their farm products; understand the value chain of their industry and basic of micro business management and operations.
Access to Financial Facilities: Rural women are consistently looking for different avenues to access microloans, Farming tools, business management and operational tools. A woman who has committed herself to work will do more and multiply her efforts if she has access to basic tools for effectiveness and productivity. Project or program designs focus on women empowerment should be that which helps women access interest-free loans, basic business tools and farm equipment. One of the keys to creating multipliers effect an increase in the building of sustainable small businesses in communities is to help women have access to basic facilitating tools for their daily engagement.
Health: Women are primarily vulnerable to every form of health issues in different communities. They face all forms of health challenges. They are the bearers of the epidemics of deadly communicable diseases. There is a high rate of maternal and infant mortality, HIV/Aid and other lethal diseases that are sprouting by the second around the world. Their effects are worse in rural communities, and rural women are major recipients. Individuals, organization, and agencies can design projects that focus on providing affordable health care and training for women on healthy living, getting and taking clean water, keeping the clean and green environment and access to basic monthly menstrual care and maternal care. An average rural woman faces a threat of maternal death. When we work together to create and provide health facilities for women, we will be contributing to the safety of a quarter of the world’s population.
Social Groups and Mentorship: Cooperative learning and social groups contribute to the growth and empowerment of women. When women find themselves in a supportive group of like minds in their community and are encouraged to have the open discussion about the challenges they are facing with a system of accountability and responsibility among members, it leads to personal and group growth. One of the primary things I have done consistently in the development of rural women is mentorship. I have mentored about 30 women who have come to be very successful in their endeavors. If we can create platforms for rural women mentorship and development in different communities around the world, it will go far to help empower women to be confident, powerful and resourceful to live up to their true potentials speaking and advocating for their equality and justice for others.