Rural Women and the Eradication of Poverty

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October 15: International Day of Rural Women
October 17: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Rural Women

By Doreen Ampofo

For many communities in Northern Ghana there is inadequate access to many basic social amenities and high rates of poverty. Many people turn to superstition to explain their dire circumstances. Unfortunately, older poor women are the victims who are blamed for other’s misfortunes. Rural women are targets of witchcraft accusations because they are mostly poor and cannot afford a means to defend themselves. Many of these women are forced to live in witches camps and to farm to fend for themselves, even in their frail state.

The theme for this year’s International Day of Rural Women, “Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All,” highlights the essential role that rural women and girls play in the food systems of the world. I am passionate about this because everyone deserves a right to life, however a number of these women are denied that right. They deserve to have a voice and to be treated fairly. They deserve to have a country and society that protects them, not one that pays lip service and leaves them to their fate and a society ready to devour them.My Humphrey year is an opportunity to build myself as their voice to put pressure on Ghana’s Government to formulate and implement policies that protect them.

Link to story:

Accused women at Gushiegu alleged withes camp
Rooms for alleged witches

Most rural women in Ghana are having to deal with failed crop production in their communities. This is a result of climate change. Lands for agriculture are hard and difficult to farm. On occasions when they manage to till the lands, floods submerge their farms. Their situation is worsened by lack of access to land, funds and decision making roles. Most rural women have for decades been relocating to the big cities like Accra and Kumasi for menial jobs because they are no longer able to contribute effectively to the food production value chain. They become shopping baskets, locally called “Kayayei” for shoppers in the big cities. They sleep in the open in parking lots. They are exposed to the biting cold when it rains, extreme heat, thieves and Mosquitoes. Some of them become victims of assault and rape. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty and the 30th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  It presents an opportunity for governments to make vulnerable communities more resilient to climate change, support the poorest, and correct structural inequalities and discrimination that perpetuate poverty. I joined colleagues to produce a podcast series that highlight this. Links below to listen: 

Apple Podcasts:

Fisher folk at the Dansoman beach in Accra

Eradication of Poverty 

By Emmanuella Dago-Akribi

I strongly believe that education and health are the two pillars of a nation’s development. Well-educated, healthy people who are confident about their children’s future in terms of health and education are much more economically productive and able to improve their well-being. That is why during this fellowship I intend to improve my knowledge and skills in C4D so that I would be able to design strategies and products for development programs that contribute effectively to the improvement of the living conditions of the populations in my country 

Interviews with women in the rural community of Akakro on local management of development challenges (Akakro, Sud-Comoé, Côte d’Ivoire, photo credit CICG) 

The effectiveness of the effort to reduce poverty is strongly affected by the policies initiated to improve access to basic social services, particularly drinking water, health and education, but also by the empowerment of women and measures to improve household income. In Côte d’Ivoire, the poverty rate is higher in rural areas than in urban areas. 

Access to drinking water 
Access to safe water reduces the prevalence of waterborne diseases, reduces school absence due to turnaround time to fetch water, reduces the risk of sexual violence when they have to go long distances for water. In Côte d’Ivoire, the rate of access to drinking water is about 80%, with a target of 100% by 2030. 

Children enjoying the drinking water point near their house (village of Kotouagnouan, Sud-Comoé, Côte d’Ivoire, photo credit CICG) 
Woman with access to drinking water in her home (Kotouagnouan village, Sud-Comoé, Côte d’Ivoire, photo credit CICG)  
Young girl getting water from a river (Sud-Comoé, Côte d’Ivoire, photo credit CICG) 

According to UNESCO, global poverty could be reduced by 12% if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills.  In Côte d’Ivoire, school is free and compulsory until age 16. Several projects are being developed to make this policy effective. In particular, the national school canteen program has reduced school absence rate and improved school results. Although the canteens are initiated by the government and its partners, their sustainability is ensured by the contribution of communities in food products for the preparation of meals. 

Pupils at lunchtime in a school canteen (Ngattakro, Gbêkê, Côte d’Ivoire, photo credit CICG) 

Empowerment of women 
To enable women to create or expand income-generating activities, the government and private institutions make funds and micro-credits available to them at preferential rates 

Mrs. Coulibaly, who received a fund dedicated to women for the development of her food business (Akakro village, Sud-Comoé, Côte d’Ivoire, photo credit CICG) 

The causal link between health and poverty is two-way. A healthy population is more economically productive and the mortality rate is higher in poor areas (WHO). 

Malaria is one of the main causes of hospitalization and death in Côte d’Ivoire, however, the means deployed for prevention and treatment have made it possible to record a 50% decrease in malaria deaths in hospitals from 2017 to 2020. 

Bed protected by a long-lasting insecticide-treated net (photo credit Franck Dejonhg, UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire) 

To reduce the infant mortality rate, which is heightened by deaths related to prematurity, Côte d’Ivoire has introduced the “kangaroo mother” care technique where the mother continuously carries her low-weight newborn on her chest, skin to skin. This technique which helps the baby to develop physically and mentally is available in dedicated centers. This alternative to the incubator made it possible to save 90% of premature babies from 2019 to 2021.

A mother carrying her premature baby against her chest in a mother kangaroo care center (photo credit Franck Dejonhg, UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire)
Woman coming for a prenatal follow-up consultation (Larabia, Sud-Comoé, Côte d’Ivoire, photo credit CICG)