Today, Women are denied their essential right to safety, freedom and equality as compared to men. Women are an indispensible part of the society and have to bear the heat of deep seated gender inequalities and discrimination. The situation is worse for women in rural areas than those in urban establishments. The basic infrastructure and services, decent work and social protection are few prerequisites which most of the women lack, even today. For instance, globally about less than 20 per cent of landholders are women, and the global pay gap between men and women stand at 23 per cent, in rural areas, it can be as high as 40 per cent.

On March 8th 2018, International Women’s Day aims to strengthen the position of women in our society and pledges to end sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women and children. This year the theme of International Women’s Day is “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.

People around the world are continuously raising their voices for the rising injustice against women. Global marches and awareness campaigns like #MeToo in the United States of America and its counterparts in other countries are being held to protest against sexual harassment and violence. Campaigns like #QuellaVoltaChe in Italy, #BalanceTonPorc in France, #YoTambien in Mexico, Spain, South America and beyond and #Ana_kaman in the Arab States; “Ni Una Menos” (‘not one less’) against femicide is being carried out globally to stop the killing of girl child. People are also raising their voice to implement issues like equal pay, safety and proper sanitation to women across all settings.

International Women’s Day 2018 is an opportunity to transform the current situation of women, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban, and celebrate the activists who are working relentlessly to claim women’s rights and realize their full potential.

The upcoming 62nd session of the UN Commission will focus to improve Status of Women in our society. Additionally, International Women’s Day is all set to draw attention to the rights and activism of rural women globally. As per statistics, rural women make up over a quarter of the world population and approximately 43 per cent of the global agricultural labour force is women.

Making sure that this promise of the Sustainable Development Goals can be turned into a reality, urgent steps and action in rural areas have to be taken to ensure an adequate standard of living, a life free of violence and harmful practices for rural women, their safety, access to proper sanitation, land and productive assets, food security and nutrition, decent work, education and health, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Rural women and their organizations represent an enormous potential, and are taking all the necessary actions to improve their life and claim their rights for a decent lifestyle. They are using innovative agricultural methods, setting up successful businesses and acquiring new skills, pursuing their legal entitlements and running for office. A lot of courageous women from the film, theatre and art fraternity around the world have stood up against sexual harassment and assault by powerful men in the industry.

This, March 8th, join hands with thousands of activists around the world and UN Women to seize the moment, celebrate, take action against the rising discrimination and transform women’s lives everywhere.