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Shirley McClain Panel Statement:

Good morning ladies, colleagues, friends and allies.  I am Shirley Williams-McClain representing USA and the state of North Carolina and poor rural women of the world.  I work with the Rural Development Leadership Network in the United States of America.   As a rural woman who grew up in a poor sharecropping family on a tobacco farm in North Carolina, I know firsthand the scrounge of being poor and hungry.  So, today, it is with great pleasure that I speak to you on behalf of the 1.4 billion rural women of whom 70 percent are poor. No matter where we live, poor rural women around the world face different challenges and opportunities than others.  We live away from the urban centers of power, many times in isolated and remote areas.  We lack access to technology, transportation, education in science and math, communication infrastructure, suitable housing, healthcare, food security and access to land.

To overcome these barriers, we must sit at the table of power where decisions are made about us. This means that at the local, state, national and international levels our voices must be heard.  Poor rural women can achieve our own empowerment with intentional support of infrastructures like broadband wireless internet service and the overall development of our communities under our leadership.  Technology is the one resource that will narrow the gap and level the playing field for rural women and their families.

National and international policy must be changed to make widespread availability of communication (cell phone, internet, and computer centers), land, transportation, markets, communication, credit, healthcare, education, suitable housing, appropriate technology, green energy, cultural expression and other elements to ensure the wellbeing and social equity of poor rural women and their families.

Rural women and girls must be encouraged, as boys are, to pursue education, training, science and math at a very young age.  Rural women and girls must gain access to technology as soon as possible.  Computers, cell phones, and technology will help level the playing field for women and girls.

Rural poor women must organize to make sustained appeals to governments to allocate and distribute education, technology and other resources in an equitable manner.  

Rural practitioners and advocates of the poor must lend a helping hand to women and girls in isolated and remote communities.  With the sustained, appropriate aid and support, we, the poor rural women and our families will raise ourselves up and out of poverty and make our voices heard.   Being empowered with education in the math and sciences and technology means self sufficiency for millions of women around the world.  We only need a hand up not a hand out.

I hope that poor rural women will be actively engaged in the full process of the planning for next year’s session CSW56.  Our presence and involvement in CSW56 should be prominent and highly visible.  Starting right now, high level CSW officials should seek us out and make more meaningful ways to engage poor rural women in next year’s theme, “The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges.”

This is why the Rural Caucus established last year is so important.  It is a vehicle to help make us more visible and strong.   Together we can make recommendations right now to be included in dialogue for CSW 56.   Thank you very much for your attention.  If you have questions for RDLN or me, please use the contact information below.

Shirley Williams McClain serves as the Issues Coordinator of the Rural Development Leadership Network where she identifies, researches, and coordinate issues for a nationwide network of rural practitioners. From 1991 to 2005 She served as the Executive Director for the North Carolina Hunger Network. She is an RDLN Leader and her field project is to develop a community garden as part of an economic development plan, and produce a manual.