Nigeria has joined other countries in the world to mark the 2023 International Day of Rural Women, which is a day dedicated to recognising and celebrating the vital role that rural women play in their communities and societies. The history of this day is rooted in the efforts to promote gender equality, women’s rights, and rural development. The theme for this year was, “Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All”, which highlighted the essential role that rural women and girls play in the food systems of the world.
The Nigerian First Lady, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, has volunteered to get modernised farming tools worth N151 million, from her personal purse for women rural farmers, to make farming easier for them. The Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, made the disclosure during a press conference to flag-off the commemoration of the the 2023 UN International Day for Rural Women and World Food Day on 15th of October, a date set aside every year, not only in Nigeria, but globally as the International Day for Rural Women. The minister, who said this year’s celebration should be different from the talk shops and celebrating the women with just word of mouth, said the women from different geo-political zones, known for rural farming, should be properly equipped to produce food for Nigerians without excruciating pain and suffering.
“I suggest that we do this particular celebration in the Women Development Centre, bring in few women from geopolitical zones, choose few representatives from different areas where they major on agriculture and make it easier for them, especially those from the area that the UN and the World Bank are helping us by organising some women that are dealing on rice, but are stilling their hands to pick the rice. The First Lady has already volunteered; she’s bringing in a lot of agricultural machines. She has volunteered to get these tools worth N151 million. This is donation from her personal purse to give out to these women because she’s equally interested in making life easier for these women. And I heard too that we’re going to teach them how to make manure and how to use it.
“That’s equally very good. But I suggest that we give the women these tools. Bring the Chinese people to teach them how to use these tools. Let it be something different that we have improved for a change. As we speak now, a Chinese company has donated 26,000 tonnes of the hybrid rice to this ministry. They call the rice ‘hybrid’ because it multiplies. If ordinary rice will bring out 100 bags, this one will give you 130 bags or 140 bags. So, let’s invite representatives of these women, give them this hybrid rice, as we already expecting four tech rice milling machine. If they plant this particular rice, it will be ready in two months. If we give them this hybrid rice, we will give them a time frame to produce rice that would bring down the cost of rice. There’s no way we can bring down cost of food if we don’t make it easier for these people to multiply what they are bringing out every year”, as Kennedy-Ohanenye urged development partners and ministries to come with modernised tools to donate to women, promising to follow the First Lady’s example by donating same, as well as her ministry.
“We need the donation of agricultural tools, the modern ones. That is what each and every one of you will come with that day and you will present it on national TV (television) for the world to see what you are bringing. I myself, on personal basis, I will come with some, the ministry will equally organise and come that day with some. Let us encourage these women and give them opportunities to produce more food for us. Because food is so expensive that even the common man cannot afford a lot. So, that is why I am pleading that let this be an example to show the President that we have actually changed the narrative by celebrating it in a different way”, she said.
In his remarks, the Acting Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Idris Mohamed, said the 15th of October year had become a rallying point for action to recognise “the critical role and contribution of rural women including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development by improving food security and eradicating rural poverty” to also support their capacities to respond to climate change, agricultural production, value change, and natural resources management. According to Mohammed, available evidence points to the fact that in the world over, 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 family’s livelihoods. Rural women are active agent of economic, social change and environmental protection”, he stated further.
Mohammed sympathised with many rural women and their families whose lives and properties had been negatively affected by the raging flood and armed conflict in different parts of the country; that have rendered rural women homeless, swept away most of the farming communities by destroying farmlands and led to loss of lives, crops and livestock worth millions of Naira. This, no doubt, have negatively impacted on the rural women while drawing Nigeria back in its quest to attain food sufficiency. He added that the two themes for both of the Rural Women’s Day and the World Food Day, stressed that production and consumption of safe food and water have immediate and long-term benefits for the people, the planet, and the economy.
“The themes further demonstrate the call for action to consolidate on the struggle for global food security with the aftermath of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown. The various clashes in Nigeria have also exposed the vulnerability of food systems to major shocks and the need for rural women to be economically-empowered for self-determination. The Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates that between 691 million and 783 million people were hungry globally in 2022, effectively erasing progress made since 2015. In addition, food insecurity rose from 25.3% in 2019 to 29.6% in 2022, with severe food insecurity affecting 11.3% of the global population. This translates to 180 million more people facing severe food insecurity than in 2019. In 2022, 27.8% of women and 25.4% of men globally experienced moderate or severe food insecurity.
“As we mark this year’s International Day for Rural Women, it is important for us to congratulate our rural women on this occasion, reflect on their status, resilience, challenges and struggle for self-determination”, he informed. The United Nations has been instrumental in promoting the rights and well-being of rural women while its various agencies and organisations collaborate to support rural women’s economic and social empowerment. The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, while speaking about the day, called for a transformation of our food systems to ensure that all people have access to healthy diets that contribute to the restoration of nature, address climate change, and are adapted to local circumstances. He said, “Across the world, food systems depend on the daily work of rural women. They play a variety of essential roles, from raising crops and processing their harvest, to preparing food and distributing their products, ensuring that both their families and communities are nourished”.