The rural woman is a strong woman, an active agents of social change and environmental protection, who has in many ways been limited to the role of housewives, farmers and caregivers. As a wife, she caters for all the needs of her husband and those of his family. As a mother, she takes care of her children, ensuring their wellbeing, provides food, healthcare, and education. As a member of the community she lives in, she contributes in its growth by engaging in activities that foster the advancement of the community, such as group farming, social groups and other community development projects.
Despite all these, the rural woman is not given as much importance as she deserves in the community.
The rural women constitute about a quarter of the world’s population, and though looked upon as inferior, can be considered as the pillar of every society. Rural women are catalyst in achieving economic transformation, environmental and social changes that are needed for sustainable development, which can lead to the achievement of the Millennium development goals. They make up great amount of the agricultural labour force. They engage in subsistence farming and produce a majority of the food that feeds most people who eat “natural” in most societies and if these women had access to productive resources, agricultural production will increase, greatly reducing the number of hungry people in the world
Challenges faced by rural women in the society
Gender inequality is one of the most challenging aspect of being a woman is the rural area. A female child born in the rural area is initiated to household activities at a very tender age. She sweeps, cleans and washes for the whole house, she is made to understand that her place is at home and in the farm, and not in the classroom or an office. The male child on the other hand, is exempted from all these chores and made to focus on education. With these in mind, he grows up believing he is superior to the girl child. As a result, the female child grows up knowing she is not worthy for any activity, other than house and farm work.
Many rural women are exploited by their husbands and the society at large. Husbands to rural women are usually very lazy and exploitative, as they expect their wives to fend for the family alone. He expects her to cook his food, take care of his house, his children and his family members, provide healthcare, and ensure the education of the children, while he bears the name of head of the family. The woman works herself tirelessly day and night, to make sure her family eats, and her children have cloths on their backs.
Economic and financial exclusion.
Most women in the rural areas are breadwinners in their families. Unfortunately, these women are not allowed to manage their own finances. They are expected to give whatever they earn to their husbands to manage, which ends up being used on alcohol, meat and women.
Considered as the weaker sex, women are more vulnerable to gender-based violence than men. Some cultural, traditional beliefs, norms and social institution, legitimize and indulge violence against women. Gender-based violence is experienced in the form of physical assault from their husbands, violence in the communities where they find themselves, rape, sexual exploitation and female genital mutilation in some cases.
How society can give more importance to the rural woman.
Cherie Blair says “When you empower a woman, you empower a family, a community, and a nation indeed”. Rural women are the most industrious people in every society. By empowering these women; redefining the gender roles that allow them to acquire the ability to choose from known alternatives that have been denied them in the past, will be of great help to the women and her community at large. By so doing, the society makes a profitable investment because the empowered woman will eventually empower her children and the society at large.
The society needs to give equal rights to education, economic and financial autonomy, health and legal rights men and women. Only then will the rural women be able to fully exploit their potentials, thereby contributing greatly to the growth of her family, community and her nation at large.
Article from Editorial of AFRIC