Achieving gender equality and empowering women is not only the right thing to do but is a critical ingredient in the fight against extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
As the world celebrates International Rural Women’s Day on 15th October each year, the day shines a spotlight and recognizes the significant contributions of women to global development.
To commemorate the vital contribution of rural women in Sri Lanka, a commemorative event took place in Polonnaruwa yesterday with over 300 women across 07 districts and the participation of high-level representatives including; Roshan Ranasinghe, Minister of Irrigation and Sport; Anupa Pasqual, State Minister of Social Empowerment; Mizukoshi Hideaki, Ambassador of Japan in Sri Lanka; Azusa Kubota, Resident Representative, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka; along with representatives from local government, and civil society
Speaking at the event, the Minister of Irrigation and Sport noted, “I appreciate the efforts taken to celebrate Rural Women’s Day here in Pollonaruwa, a testament to their resilience to hardships and challenges faced over the years…We acknowledge the grant support provided by
the Government of Japan and other stakeholders through these UNDP led interventions, to support and empower these communities.”
Commenting on the importance of the day, State Minister of Social
Empowerment stated, “Recognizing rural women on a commemorative day such as today, not only empowers women, but supports to build and rebuild, strong sustainable women’s networks… I encourage all present here today to commit yourselves, as you have been equipped with the right
skills to journey on this new path.”
The special event saw the opening of the Gal Oya Green Zone, handing over of the poultry feed production centre to the Gal Oya Green Women's Society, and awarding of membership to the Rural Women’s Business Forum, among other activities. These efforts are a result of UNDP led interventions in the field, through the Green Climate Fund (GCF) financed ‘Climate Resilient Integrated Water Management Project (CRIWMP)’, the Japanese Supplementary Budget (JSB) funded ‘Strengthening Smallholder Farmers and Micro/Home-Based Agriculture Industries for Enhanced Food and Livelihood Security’ project, and financing from the Government of Luxemburg through UNDP's Funding Windows supported intervention to create an integrated social protection system for long-term inclusive growth and broad-based resilience.
Noting the Government of Japan’s priority in strengthening such interventions in Sri Lanka, Mizukoshi Hideaki, Ambassador of the Government of Japan in Sri Lanka stated, “I believe these interventions will provide practical means to uplift lives of vulnerable communities with a focus on women’s economic empowerment and enhance the capacity, promoting their productivity and sustainability, which will contribute to the economic recovery of Sri Lanka. The Government of Japan is committed to support the lives of rural women through numerous projects and initiatives”.
Through UNDPs integrated support through the Funding Windows, the Gal Oya Green Zone encompasses a roadside marketplace with 20 eco-friendly sales huts along a kilometer stretch of the Habarana - Trincomalee Road, benefiting 40 women beneficiaries in the area, enabling the sale of
ecologically grown home garden agricultural products. In addition, 110 home gardens have been established under the Green Climate Funded CRIWMP and Japanese Supplementary Budget (JSB) supported projects, enhancing nutritional levels, increasing food security among farming families, and creating livelihood opportunities to sell surplus produce at the roadside market.
Commenting on UNDP’s role, Resident Representative for UNDP in Sri Lanka highlighted, “From the rising cost of living and food insecurity, women have disproportionally felt the brunt of the compounding crises. Our joint initiatives with the Government of Sri Lanka, generously
funded by the Government of Japan, equipped women with livelihood skills and tools to enhance their resilience against these shocks. The women have applied their own indigenous knowledge and innovation to augment the impact of these investments and we clearly see the exponential effect.
At UNDP, we are firmly committed to working with women, particularly in rural areas, at this time of difficulty as they can truly be agents of change for the families and communities, and the country as a whole.”
Through gender equitable agriculture programmes such as backyard poultry, climate smart rainwater harvesting and drinking water supply in the Dry Zone to ease the care work burden, quick grant schemes for agro-based enterprises and crop cultivation, engagement of women in micro
irrigation systems and water management, Rural Women’s Day is an opportunity to recognize the work of these heroines in the food systems of the world and in Sri Lanka, while striving to create more equitable and sustainable opportunities for all.