Mongolia recently shepherded a United Nations resolution highlighting the plight of women in rural areas. It passed almost unanimously, with 98 nations signing on. But high-minded UN resolutions alone won't save these women from the widening gulf that separates them from their urban counterparts.
The data spells out their disadvantages. Nearly 25% of women worldwide live in remote, underserved rural regions. They face steeper rates of poverty, reduced access to infrastructure, higher barriers to education and fewer economic opportunities than women in cities.
The UN itself acknowledges empowering rural women is critical to meeting its lofty Sustainable Development Goals, from eradicating hunger to promoting clean energy access. Yet the aid and investments necessary to lift up rural areas still fall painfully short.
The Mongolian resolution extols rural women's "resilience" and "ability to overcome difficulties." But resilience is needed to endure struggles, not accept them as permanent conditions. We cannot continually praise rural women's perseverance without doing more to actively improve their circumstances.
These women require tangible, on-the-ground assistance—microloans, job training programs, investments in roads and electricity—not mere rhetoric from the UN's soaring chambers. The resolution calls for bringing rural women "into policy-making" and "incorporating them into discussions." A fine idea in theory. But most rural women are too busy working multiple jobs, raising children and keeping households afloat to join dialogues in far-off capitals.
Of course, governments should invite rural input when formulating policy. But the impetus cannot be on deprived, time-strapped women to ensure their voices are heard. Leaders must proactively seek them out. And they need to demonstrate with actions, not words, that rural challenges are more than an afterthought.
Credit Mongolia for spotlighting this issue and consensus-building around it. But the world has seen too many well-meaning UN resolutions dissolve into the ether, failing to drive real change. This one will meet the same fate unless political leaders treat rural marginalization as the crisis it is. For once, rhetoric must be matched by rural renewal in tangible form. Lives depend on it.