For information only - not an official document

8 March 2012

Re-issued as received

Rural women active agents of economic and social change and need more support, says UNIDO Director-General

VIENNA, 8 March (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) - Kandeh K. Yumkella, the Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said today that rural women were often at the forefront of economic and social change but many continued to face challenges due to discrimination and gender-based stereotypes.

"Rural women are active agents of economic and social change. They play a crucial role in ensuring food and nutrition security, eradicating rural poverty and improving the well-being of their families, yet many of them still face serious challenges as a result of gender-based stereotypes and discrimination that deny them equitable access to opportunities, resources and services," said Yumkella, marking the International Women's Day, observed on 8 March. This year, it is observed under the theme "Empower rural women - eradicate hunger and poverty".

Noting that substantial progress has been made over the last 100 years in advancing the status of women in social, economic and political spheres, Yumkella said that more work was required to raise awareness of gender equality and empower women at global, regional, national and local levels.

"Women continue to face gender disparities in access to and control over land and other productive resources and infrastructure services, including energy. For rural women and men, land is perhaps the most important household asset to support production and provide for food, nutrition and income security," said Yumkella.

An international comparison of agricultural census data showed that due to a range of legal and cultural constraints in land inheritance, ownership and use, less than 20 per cent of landholders are women. Women represent fewer than 5 per cent of all agricultural land holders in North Africa and West Asia, while across Sub-Saharan Africa, women average 15 percent of agricultural land holders. "The lack of land ownership by women is a major constraint in accessing financial services, particularly credits and loans," said the UNIDO Director-General.

"Globally, one person in five lacks access to modern electricity and twice that number, three billion people, rely on wood, coal, charcoal or dung for cooking and heating. This is a daily reality for many rural women in developing countries. We have a duty to improve the lives of these women. Energy poverty must be eradicated," said Yumkella who co-chairs Secretary-General Ban high-level group for the Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

The initiative has set three complementary targets to be achieved by 2030: to ensure universal access to modern energy services; to double energy efficiency; and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

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