Reducing gender inequality is one of the great challenges of the 21st century. Nowhere are concerns greater than where the disadvantages of being a woman intersect with the disadvantages of living in rural areas of developing countries. In rural areas, access to education and health services is often limited, and women are more likely to depend on farming for a livelihood. As a result, interest in women farmers has grown strongly in recent times. Studies proliferate on the conditions of women as farmers in the global South, as do debates on how best to rectify disadvantages and improve the conditions under which women farm.
While this is all encouraging, how important is farming to improving the lives of rural women and girls? Studies of changes to their lives in countries that have progressed from low- to middle-income status since the early 1960s suggest that some of the main drivers of improved lives lie outside of agriculture: in education, health, women-friendly family planning, and opportunities in the non-farm economy.
To mark International Day of Rural Women on 15 October, ODI convenes an expert panel to explore this question further. The event includes discussion of new findings from recent research from ODI and the DFID-ESRC Growth Research Programme.