About the event
The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on 15 October 2008. The Day recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”
It is purposely held the day before World Food Day, in order to highlight the role played by rural women in food production and food security. In many of the world's poorer countries women play a vital role in the rural economy. They are involved in crop production and livestock care, provide food, water and fuel for their families, and carry out other activities to diversify their families’ livelihoods.
How to approach it
This is a good opportunity to introduce students to basic ideas of food, supply chains and the global economy. 40% of agricultural labourers in the developing world are rural women, many of whom will produce food that is consumed in developed countries. Explain therefore that this is a good day to be mindful of where our food comes from, who might be producing it and what conditions they are working in.
You could do this by asking your class to think about the kinds of food that comes from a far away place. Coffee, chocolate and exotic fruits are all good examples. Engage in an imaginative exercise where you trace one of these foods from a UK shop all the way back to where it was grown. Ask: what people does this have to go through to get here? What are their lives like? You may move from the shop to a wholesaler, the ships or planes that fly it over, the merchants, the packers, the distributors and finally the growers. Show that the food we eat goes through hundreds of people and we should be thankful to them. Suggest that rural women labourers are an important component of those that produce our food.
Next, show that according to the UN, whilst ‘women farmers may be as productive and enterprising as their male counterparts [they] are less able to access land, credit, agricultural inputs [and get] lower prices for their crops’. Suggest that it's important we know where our food comes from so that we can support those that produce it especially these marginalised women. You could reinforce this kind of thinking by running an empathy building exercise. Ask your class to imagine what working on a plantation or small-scale farm in a faraway place would feel like. What would it feel like to have less access to education and funds compared to the men around you?