This report finds that women and girls living in rural areas of the developing world play a vital yet unrecognised role as agricultural producers and hold the potential to be agents of food and nutritional security and economic growth. It argues for a special focus on rural adolescent girls, integrated into a well-supported rural economic development strategy.
In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where a significant portion of Gross Domestic Product is dependent on agriculture, women and girls living in rural areas comprise nearly half of the region’s agricultural workers. However, less than 10 percent of total official development assistance for agriculture explicitly addresses gender issues, and only 33 percent of girls in rural areas of the developing world attend primary school.
Rural adolescent girls are disadvantaged by their location, age, and gender. This triple disadvantage severely restricts their development into the vital agents of change that they have the potential to become.
Empowering adolescent girls spurs economic and social growth in communities and nations, leading to transformational change. With adequate education and training, rural adolescent girls can help raise their family incomes and status and develop thriving rural economies. For example:
- If women farmers were given the same access to productive resources as men, women’s agricultural yields could increase by 20 to 30 percent, national agricultural output could increase by 2.5 to 4 percent, and the number of undernourished people could be reduced by 12 to 17 percent.
- Girls’ responsibilities at home and on the farm give them unique knowledge of local crop species and environmental conditions, making them potentially important players in natural resource management.
- Girls can become leaders in agricultural research and extension and entrepreneurs and workers across the agricultural value chain.
The decade of adolescence offers a critical opportunity for actions to intervene early enough to change a girl’s trajectory. Interventions that result in the delay of marriage and reduction of work burdens give girls a greater chance to continue their educations, help slow population growth, and prevent the passage of poverty and disadvantage to the next generation. The following recommendations in the areas of education, economic opportunity, agriculture, voice and civic participation, health, safety and data provide a road map to equip and empower girls to improve their lives and become agents of change as farmers, entrepreneurs, decision makers, and mothers in rural economies:
- Expand opportunities for rural adolescent girls to attend secondary school, such as by making schools girl friendly and providing incentives to parents to keep girls in school such as scholarships, stipends, cash transfers, training, literacy programs, and elimination of school fees.
- Equip rural adolescent girls to be entrepreneurs, workers, and managers, such as by developing and promoting the adoption of time-saving technologies, and incorporating knowledge and skill-building programs into rural economic development initiatives and education.
- Prepare rural adolescent girls to be major stakeholders in agriculture and natural resource management. Include girls in country agriculture investment plans and natural resource management programmes. Ensure equitable inheritance and land rights and increase adolescent girls’ access to assets.
- Empower and provide opportunities for rural adolescent girls to have an active voice in household, community, and national decision making. For example, provide â€œsafe spacesâ€? and youth development programs to build confidence and skills, develop peer connections, and provide mentoring.
- Provide rural adolescent girls with comprehensive health information and services, such as by using school and community centres as entry points.
- Improve rural adolescent girls’ safety and security and strengthen local and national practices for bringing perpetrators to justice.
- Count girls and measure progress. Record all births and collect and disaggregate data, and establish benchmarks and report progress regularly.