Rural women and girls play essential roles in food systems – from production to processing, preparation, consumption, and distribution of food – as well as in securing household and community nutrition. Locally and globally, the records stand tall in their favour; yet many appear to have taken them for granted because of prejudices and traditions.
Standing on the platform of the 2021 International Day of Rural Women, celebrated globally on October 15, 2021, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Dr. Ini Adiakpan says it is time all obnoxious traditions and beliefs tied around women’s necks be removed to enable them do more in feeding the world.
This is one woman who has been vocal and consistent on the advocacy of women emancipation and breaking of all gender barriers to allow women fully showcase their talents and potentials in creating a better world for humanity.
And facts on ground support her concerns: Unequal power relations between women and men in the household and society, discriminatory gender norms and practices, prevalent violence against women and girls, and their disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work, result in unequal access to food and heightened experience of hunger, malnutrition, undernutrition, and food insecurity.
This year’s celebration of International Day of Rural Women in Akwa Ibom State therefore came with a big bang as the State Government, through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare headed by Dr. Ini Adiakpan, empowered the women with agro-allied incentives and associated packeges as they return home more determined to continue playing their critical roles in feeding the world.
With the theme: “Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All” this year’s event took place at the multipurpose Hall of Ika Local government Area Headquarters in Urua- inyang. In a nutshell, according to the charter establishing the day , the celebration aims at “creating awareness of the women’s struggles, their needs, and their critical and key-role in the society”
On that note, delivering her address, the Honourable Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Dr. Ini Adiakpan, stated that if we want to fight extreme poverty, we need to continue to address existing gaps in gender parity and achieve equity and equality. She added that we also need to improve the lives of the rural women.
The Commissioner argued that a quarter of the world’s population are the rural women who are working sometimes unnoticed and uncelebrated as farmers, wage earners and entrepreneurs who feed the world’s rural and urban communities.
Drawing strength from available statistics to drive home the significance of the day, Dr. Adiakpan stated: “In the agricultural work force in Africa, 50% are women and these women lack equal access and opportunities as their male counterparts, and as such, focus and recognition are placed on these heroines-the rural women, on the 15th October of every year”
She stressed that this year’s celebration theme was most fitting, encouraging and timely as it brings into our consciousness the fact that, the rural women play active role in the production, processing and distribution of the food consumed by the rest of the people in the world.
“Unequal power relations, discriminatory gender norms and practices, sexual and gender-based violence and other barriers need to be addressed effectively for these heroines”
Commending government’s ungrudging and unmitigated commitment to encouraging the rural women, Dr. Adiakpan thanked the Governor of the State, His Excellency Mr Udom Gabriel Emmanuel and his dear wife Dr. Mrs Martha Udom Emmanuel, for creating enabling environment for the women to thrive in their different fields. She also appreciated them for removing all gender barriers, by ensuring that more women are elected and appointed into political offices to contribute their quota to the growth and development of the State.
One of the eloquent ways the state government has expressed genuine interest is through the instrumentality of the Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Path Initiative (FEYReP).
This pet project of Her Excellency, Dr. (Mrs) Martha Udom Emmanuel has been a catalyst in uplifting and encouraging rural women to do more for themselves and the society. Interest free loans, grants and start-up packages have been given to enable women become self reliant through entrepreneurship and drivers of state economy.
According to the Commissioner, the Ministry of Women Affairs was using a day like this year’s anniversary “to create massive awareness, educate the women on the need for digitization, banking, importance of joining coperative societies and crowdfunding”.
But it was not just a day of words or rhetorics. Practical steps were taken to further confirm how concerned government is over this matter.
Hence, highlight of the event was the distribution of quality handsets to 40 rural Women as well as sim cards and prompt registration. The logic is that when the rural farmers are well connected, it makes it easier and possible for them to link up with their customers and also become abreast of global trends through information and interactions with their phones. Empowering them with cellphones also comes with the ease of reaching their customers anytime, any day and anywhere – all in a bid to facilitate or fast track transportation of goods and services across distances to desired destinations.
To witness this year’s event were
Hon. (Mrs) Idongesit David Daniel, Ika Vice Chairman Hon. Jane Anthony, and Hon. Cornelia Uwem. Others were
Mrs Idongesit Aniekan, Mr Olalekan Lawal, Barr(Mrs) Nkechi Udoh and women from different groups in Ika Local Government.
The International Day for Rural Women was established by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 621/136 of 18th December, 2007.
Ever since then, especially with the coming into office of Dr. Ini Adiakpan as Commissioner directly saddled with the composite concerns of women, every year has come with fresh perspectives and new capacity building options that have had remarkable effect on the productivity of women in food generation.
Teaming up with Governor’s wife and other relevant partners, it is no exaggeration to say that Dr. Adiakpan has proven in many ways to be a round peg in a round hole, a ready and ever dependable force to reckon with in women matters in Akwa Ibom State.