The Secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) says it is imperative to invest and support rural women to attain sustainable development as the World commemorates the International Women's Day, today the 8th of March, 2018 under the theme; "Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women's lives".
Speaking in an interview with Radio Botswana in commemoration of the International Women's Day, Head of Gender Unit at the SADC Secretariat, Dr Joseph Pitso said for the SADC Region to achieve its set objective of promoting sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development as well as improving the standards of living of its citizens, especially women and children, there is need to promote targeted programmes that can uplift the living standards of the rural poor, particularly women.
Dr Pitso said gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls cannot be achieved without addressing the multiple and intersecting inequalities and forms of discrimination that rural women face.
He said rural women in sub-Saharan Africa, including SADC, are the backbone of African economies by, among others, ensuring food security for their communities, building climate resilience and ultimately, growing local and global economies.
It is estimated that out of the population of 300 million in the SADC Region, more than half (51%) are female and the majority of the population (60%) are rural. However, on almost every measure of development, because of patriarchy, deep seated gender inequalities and discrimination, rural women fare worse than rural men or urban women.
"The rural-urban divide is an impediment and also a source of the persistent gaps in opportunities and access to livelihoods, better education and health care systems as well as other economic and productive resources by boys and girls, women and men," noted Dr Pitso, calling for gender sensitive rural development programmes, community services and facilities with adequate modernized technology that can save rural women's time and lessen their burden of unpaid work, that is, provision of accessible clean water and energy saving cooking devices.
The 2018 International Women's Day comes at a time when people around the world are mobilizing and yearning for a future that is more just and equal. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5: Gender Equality, recognises that gender inequalities persist, depriving women and girls of their basic rights and opportunities.