International Women’s Day: UN honors often overlooked rural women

World Today

UN Women Executive Director Visits BangladeshUN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka meets with women at a UN Women-supported Action Aid Women Friendly Space in the Balukhali Rohingya Refugee camp. (UN Women/Allison Joyce)

Women took to the streets across the world on Thursday to mark International Women’s Day. Strikes and protests let their voices be heard, but not everyone was able to take part. So as CGTN’s Nick Harper reports, the United Nations chose to focus its attention on one group that is often overlooked.

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They make up a quarter of the world’s population, but most are left behind by development. These are the rural women.

At a time when women’s rights have come to the fore in developed nations, these issues are still hidden beneath the surface in many others.

“Let us declare loud and clear: The Time is Now,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said, as he marked International Women’s Day in New York.

The U.N. chief highlighted the challenges rural women face, including unequal pay, difficulties in owning land and frequent violence.

“All around the world, we need to listen to the women and girls who are rightly proclaiming their rights,” he said. “We must join together as partners – women and girls, men and boys – to make gender equality a reality for all. Our aspirations for a world of peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all depend on it.”

The past year has seen the rise of the #MeToo movement, with countries speaking out against sexual assault and harassment.

“In the case of the Oscars and Hollywood, because they have such visibility, it is an important forum,” Executive Director of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka explained. “What they are able to do gains greater visibility than something that is done by someone who is far away in Sri Lanka. They might not be able to get that visibility.”

But the movement hasn’t made it as far in many rural communities. Women often have care and domestic responsibilities, which impact their agricultural output and the wages they are able to earn.

Experts said societal norms  in many areas are still prejudiced against women, placing more burden on women and their roles inside their homes.

At the U.N., however, the senior management team is now made up equally of men and women. By next month, that gender parity will also be true for the leaders of U.N. Country Teams.

Change may be coming from the very top at the U.N. headquarters, but that change is still a long way from reaching the bottom, and altering the way women are treated in rural communities around the world.

Women shut down streets of Spain on International Women’s Day

Women marched in the streets of Spain on Thursday, joining others from across the world in demanding equal rights and equal pay. CGTN’s Al Goodman has more from Madrid.