This year on International Day of Rural Women, UN Women focused attention on the urgent need to build rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19 by strengthening their livelihoods and wellbeing.
Take a look at just five ways that rural women are feeling the impacts of COVID-19 and leading the response in their communities.
Saving women-owned small businesses in Tanzania
Rosemary Satunini Berere, 23, grew up in Samunge village in Ngorongoro district in Arusha region, an area best known for craters, sacred forests, mountains and wildlife. The Maasai people live in this area.
When COVID-19 reached her community in March 2020, tourist travel was mostly cancelled, and the tourist lodges that provided a major market for Rosemary’s organic vegetable business were temporarily closed.
“I am looking at sourcing new markets, including selling to people in the food business outside the Arusha region and beyond Tanzania,” says Rosemary. “However, my challenge is how to access information on the available opportunities in some neighboring countries that may be experiencing shortages in various supplies, including organic vegetables, due to lock-down restrictions.”
With support from UN Women and the Pastoral Women’s Council, and funding from the Korea International Cooperation Agency, Rosemary received a small grant to keep her business going. With the added support, Rosemary has started increasing production and introduced new varieties of vegetables. She says she would like to sell more and boost her savings to buy a water pump for irrigation.
As COVID-19 confinement measures started in Colombia, the country saw a rise in cases of violence against women, including those reported through hotline numbers. There was a 107 per cent increase in calls for help this year, between 25 March and 30 July, in comparison to the same period in 2019. Eighty-nine per cent of those calls were rerouted to hotlines dedicated to serve victims and survivors of violence against women.
“Taking a leadership role has not been easy. We have had to fight with men who have discriminated against us, but we have not allowed ourselves to be overshadowed,” says Luz Angélica Tarapuez, one of the 94 indigenous women and farm workers who attended a program in 2019 to strengthen their leadership roles in their community and to prevent gender-based violence. “Attending the training school allowed us to learn more about our rights and the importance of speaking up about decisions that affect us as women. We have organized a Women’s Round table to strengthen our platform.”
Supported by UN Women, UNICEF and UNHCR, with funding from the Peace Building Fund, the training school is part of a project implemented by Hombres en Marcha, in Colombia and Ecuador. It is the first initiative of its kind in the towns along the Colombia-Ecuador border that is focused on addressing gender-based violence. By boosting women’s political participation, and by involving men as allies of gender equality, the initiative aims to prevent gender-based violence and establish more equitable gender norms.
Rethinking business models in Morocco
Members of the women-led Cooperative Tudert, based in Essauouria province of Morocco, has struggled to maintain its incomes as COVID-19 prevention measures and lockdowns started in Morocco. While they were able to continue harvesting their thyme, lavender, rosemary, sage and other herbs, lockdowns closed the drying and packaging units they relied on. With markets also closed, the women were unable to sell their goods.
In May 2020, Morocco’s Ministry of Solidarity, Social Development, Equality and Family, in partnership with the Social Development Agency, developed an online marketplace, called ADS Coopsclub, to sell products during the COVID-19 crisis. This platform is intended to include all women's cooperatives in Morocco.
“At the beginning of the crisis, with the weekly regional markets closed in Imi N’Tlit, it was very difficult for us to find a solution to sell our products,” says Aicha Ennaih, a member of the Tudert Cooperative. “When UN Women informed us about this platform, it was great news for our cooperative. We were able to register and to negotiate product delivery fees with service providers, allowing us to take advantage of this unique opportunity at a good cost.”
UN Women supported cooperatives, like Tudert, to join the online marketplace by helping with administrative processes. Previously, The Tudert cooperatives and others in Morocco received support from UN Women as part of an economic empowerment project funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation.