In the various categories of women are the rural ones, who are meriting of all deliberations.
While some of the challenges in the rural transformation agenda are relevant to both young women and men, there is often a specific gender dimension and, in most instances, women are at a greater disadvantage than men.
Particular attention is required to ensure that rural young women have equal opportunities to participate in and benefit from positive changes associated with rural development.
This is not only on the basis of gender equality, but also in pursuit of delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030 by ensuring that no one is left behind.
However, for young women to benefit from rural transformation, requires more than gaining technical skills, securing farming inputs, forming Saccos, and providing some employment opportunities.
It is about tackling the cardinal causes of gender inequality, which impact many aspects of young women’s lives. From their ability to complete school to having the time and motivation to engage in developmental activities to expressing their preferences in policy processes and their overall well-being.
For the process of rural transformation to be inclusive, there have to be enabling factors for everyone to exercise their economic, social and political rights.
The availability of a conducive and supportive environment where young women can develop their abilities and are able to take advantage of the opportunities that arise. In practice, inclusive transformation must be deliberate by eliminating stumbling blocks holding back rural women. The major challenges faced by young rural women can be stated as:
Negative cultural norms: These permeate many facets of their lives. Essentially, dictating how the women are supposed to live their lives. The cultural norms and expectations shape who they should be, their aspirations, how far they go in school, how much daily workload, and their place in marriage.
Individual barriers: Under barriers are obstacles like low education attainment, limited vision, and limited connectivity. These barriers deny women the possibility to pursue a more purposeful and productive life. For instance, they are unable to engage in transformative economic activities, study or even constructive leisure.
Besides, the pitfalls of early marriage, the traditional division of labour means that a significant proportion of their time is spent on the daily tasks of child and home care, collecting water, firewood and labour intensive agricultural work.
Low educational: In spite of primary school education being universal, attendance of secondary school continues to be low in rural areas. This is primarily due to associated costs where funds are rationed favouring boys over girls’ education.
Limited connectivity: In rural areas, few women listen regularly to radio, watch less television, and possibly read no newspapers. In comparison, majority of young urban women are in regular contact with external sources of information, including accessing the Internet.
Limited vision: Many rural women are not aware of other realities and endless possibilities. Their aspirations for the future are often constrained by their basic level of education, low self-esteem, limited mobility and exposure to new ideas and ways of living.
They are burdened by their daily workload and bound by cultural norms. With their limited education and access to media, they have few opportunities to broaden their horizons.
It is unfortunate that when many young rural women are adolescents, a stage when their core skills should be developing and their horizons broadening, their options are being limited by the above mentioned obstacles and challenges.
Therefore, for inclusive rural transformation to take root, addressing deeply embedded aspects of gender disparities is imperative.