Farming and Sexting: An interlinkage approach to multiple needs of rural women and girls

March 7, 2018

BY Chantal Umuhoza

Yes rural women and girls can also sext!.. if we ensure an enabling environment for it to happen.

Whereas it is generally the reality that the main or only source of livelihood for rural people is linked to land and related environment, and this can lead to general perception that needs of rural people are those mainly related to agriculture or other land related activity, it is not all there is to the lives of rural women and girls.

In many African countries, Agriculture is still the backbone of their economies. In Rwanda, women are the major actors in the agricultural sector, and many of them are poor. They comprise 82% of the labor force in the Agriculture sector (National Gender Statistics Report 2013). However, efforts directed towards inclusive rural development with only a focus on agriculture and other land related activities for livelihood, tend to forget that besides livelihood, there are other connected factors that can impact rural women,  for instance the impact of realities of gender inequalities, lack of services to ensure women’s sexual and reproductive rights and unpaid care work among other issues. Thus, without addressing all these factors as intersecting, development efforts directed towards only a single issue, risks having limited impact.

In Rwanda, despite existence of a law that recognizes equal ownership of land and property between men and women, there are socio-cultural barriers and invisible power dynamics that still give authority to men on decision making on land and produce. According to the National Gender statistics report of 2013, when it comes to earning from Agriculture, women earn less as they have less control of product sales, and both for small-scale and larger-scale operations, women are generally not responsible for product sales. In addition, rural Rwanda has highest fertility rates in the country, (Rwanda Demographic Health Survey 2014-2015) and Rwanda being a patriarchal society, child care and care of other people in general is still the sole responsibility of women and girls, which makes them carry the biggest burden of unpaid care work. In this case, a law is not enough, instead programs that aim to address different aspects of people’s realities, including for example redistributing unpaid care work and ensuring women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, would be much more effective in ensuring equality for women in right to land use and control.

Equally, rural women and girls’ sexual health need to be attained fully and as according to WHO, sexual health is “…is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence  and wide coverage of public health services on SRHR are not enough as these may not comprehensively address and ensure women and girls’ pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.

There’s need to ensure that for rural girls, in addition to realizing their right to quality education and skills development, they  have full unlimited access to comprehensive sexuality education (as recommended in EGM and SG’s reports for CSW62 ) to ensure they are able to make invoked decisions and attain their full potential.

The sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 12 to 23 March 2018 with the priority theme “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”. As the CSW remain a crucial space to advance Gender Equality and women’s empowerment from a global level where commitments at national level are taken it is crucial that governments and different groups of stakeholders including civil society organizations from all parts of the world adopt this interlinkage thinking and approach.

Indeed both the UN Secretary Generals’ report on CSW62 and the report of the Expert Group meeting on CSW62 clearly highlight that rural women and girls is not a homogenous group. The EGM report points out how most interventions “target rural women as a singular, food producing identity, failing to consider the heterogeneity of rural women and the challenges they face including multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”.

RESURJ is a Global South-led transnational feminist alliance, advocating for an interlinkage and justice approach in development work. This approach calls on everyone, including policy makers, development planners, academia, and activists, to recognize that people don’t live single issue lives and thus narratives, laws, policies and programs aimed at transforming people’s lives, s for the better should seek to address more than one issue but multiple issues, and recognize and address the ways in which those issues interact, and women’s experiences of those interactions.

Like RESURJ is doing, CSOs, governments and development practitioners are called upon to undertake work within a feminist intersectional analysis, which recognizes historic and systemic unequal gender power relations, to break silos in our actions and strategies to achieve sexual and reproductive justice, and identify and build alliances across movements as well as propose concrete interventions and policies that address and make visible the  interlinkage between sexual and reproductive justice, economic and ecological justice.

As we work to achieve the agenda 2030’s SDGs with a spirit of leaving no one behind, it only makes sense that we all explore interventions and policies that could have multiple effects on multiple goals.