U.N., Women’s Group Fight Poverty Among Rural Workers
A U.N. organization and Indian women’s group have united to help lift rural workers, especially women, from poverty and food insecurity.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is deepening its partnership with India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association to promote rural development and provide greater resources to rural women and youth in Asia and Africa.
While FAO focuses on policies and programs and SEWA focuses on grassroots movements, the partnership—which became official with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding—will feature an action plan to leverage their services to improve the rural workers’ livelihoods, promote agricultural sustainability and security, and fight poverty.
“This Memorandum of Understanding will help us improve our cooperation, particularly to increase access to productive resources and services, to expand possibilities for the rural poor, and to generate knowledge about the situation of rural women and youth,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a statement.
Their work will include creating job opportunities, facilitating the exchange of best practices between countries and rural communities through online tools, increasing rural women’s access to financial resources and technology, advocating for gender equality, and encouraging organization and lobbying among the poor.
Though the new partnership was announced earlier this year, the two groups have been collaborating for years. For example, the Exposure and Exchange Programme, which is part of FAO’s Agricultural Commodities Project, has brought together women from SEWA with other producer organizations to improve their operations and share ideas.
SEWA represents 1.9 million poor self-employed women workers—54 percent of whom are agricultural workers—and seeks to support marginalized women by providing them with financial resources and empowering them to achieve full employment and its benefits. According to SEWA, 94 percent of India’s female labor force fall into this unorganized group.
“Organizing is the key to empowerment,” SEWA’s Renana Jhabvalain said in an article published on FAO’s website. “Organizing is the process by which people who are individually weak and vulnerable unite and create power together. When individuals who are among the poorest, least educated, and most disenfranchised members of society come together they experience dramatic changes in their lives.”
FAO recognizes the importance of organizations in giving the underrepresented a voice and helping them overcome challenges. This partnership will rely on the power of associations to help lift the world’s rural workers out of overall financial insecurity.