Rebecca Blue, Acting Deputy Undersecretary for MRP; Janie Hip, Senior Advisor to the Secretary on Tribal Affairs; and Kisha Davis, White House Fellow were excited to represent USDA on the US delegation to the UN for the 56th Commission on the Status of Women. The theme this year was the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication. Agriculture plays a key role in the lives of rural women both domestically and abroad and it is important that USDA be at the table when these discussions are taking place.
The central product of the conference is to create Agreed Conclusions on the theme which provides recommendations for action by government, intergovernmental bodies, civil society, and other relevant stakeholders. These can and should be implemented at the international, national, regional and local levels. The main themes from this year’s Agreed Conclusions are to recognize and strengthen the role of rural women in agriculture; ensure rural women’s access to production resources, technology, markets and financing; to promote decent and productive employment and income-generating opportunities for rural women; enhance infrastructure and service-delivery that benefits rural women; recognize rural women’s role in natural resource management and climate change adaptation; and create effective institutions and enabling policy environments that promote gender responsive rural development. The goals are far reaching, but attainable.
In celebration of International Women’s Day there were presentations by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the UN; Marjon Kamara, UN Ambassador from Liberia and Chairperson of the Commission; Michelle Bachelet, Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women; and Admiral Mark Ferguson III, U.S. Navy Vice Chief of Naval Operations. There was also a fantastic quilt exhibit with panels detailing the challenges rural women face.
Other resolutions on advancing gender equality, eliminating violence against women and girls, indigenous women, the impact of HIV/AIDS on rural women and girls, and lessening maternal morbidity and mortality on rural women and girls were also adopted. USAID also released the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index a way to understand the connection between women’s empowerment, food security, and agricultural growth.
The conference challenged us to find ways that USDA can help lead the US in achieving the goals of the Commission and addressing the needs of rural women.