[From AWID] "October 15 marks the day of the International Rural Women’s Day. It is also the eve of World Food Day. This highlights the critical roles rural women play in improving food security, enhancing agricultural and rural development, and eradicating rural poverty.

Today, the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition (ARWC) honours exceptional rural women and advocates from several countries across Asia who continuously fight for survival, justice and freedom. ARWC celebrates the leadership, strength, creativity, and commitment in pushing for gender equality while improving lives of the general rural populace.

The ARWC draws its attention both to the contribution that rural women make in their homes, workplaces, communities, and the societies (or countries as a whole) and the many challenges that they face. With the worsening hunger and poverty situation, aggravated by soaring prices of commodities, rural women bear the greatest burden. They have to struggle even more to confront oppressive structures and institutions, patriarchal constructs and cultural barriers.  Yet, in the face of greater challenges posed by the global crisis, Asian rural women have shown not only extreme resilience but more importantly have played critical roles in asserting their rights and changing their situation.

These women have shown courage as they boldly faced the authorities in the midst of caste and gender violence, brutal attacks, unwarranted arrests, and displacement. They have fought for freedom from oppression and discrimination. They have fought for human rights, women’s rights, and the rights of other marginalised groups.

These women have defied traditions and braved all criticisms as they empowered themselves, took control of their lives, and asserted their rights as women, as mothers, and as sisters.  They have raised the awareness of families, communities and other sectors on various issues on health, environment, education, governance, and leadership.

They have challenged governments, corporations and landlords when their farms, forests, ancestral territories and livelihoods were taken away. They have tirelessly campaigned against development aggression, corruption, violence on women, trafficking, and militarism. They have joined strikes and protest actions to fight for higher wages, food security, basic services such as water, health and education.

They have used education as a powerful tool to teach children, the youth and communities on a wide range of issues. They have shown strength and successfully joined elections and boldly faced harassment and threats from traditional politicians. They have organised themselves, formed alliances and collectively shown strength in asserting economic, socio-civic and political rights.

The ARWC shares the stories of the women farmers, indigenous women, Dalits, fisherfolk, workers, health and social workers, activists, professionals, organisers, campaigners and volunteers who, through time, remain steadfast and continue to fight against human rights violation, gender injustices and discrimination.

ARWC shares their stories today as we observe World Rural Women's Day to inspire other women to assert their rights, empower themselves as women and act to liberate themselves and their communities from all forms of injustice.

Please visit http://www.asianruralwomen.net/html/events-honouring100women.htm for their inspiring stories."

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