In developing countries, women – who are disproportionately poor and illiterate – do most of the farm work, but own a miniscule percentage of the land, he said in his message for the occasion, which falls on the eve of World Food Day.According to the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), 428 million women work in the agricultural sector worldwide, compared to 608 million men.“Our mission is to foster a world where the woman who farms is also a woman with educational opportunities, political access, and a voice at the negotiating table,” Mr. Ban said.Empowering rural women will increase the well-being of their children, communities and countries, the message noted. “At the same time, we must recognize that improvements in roads, health care, water and sanitation systems and environmental protection will elevate not only women but society as a whole.”The Secretary-General urged countries to prioritize rural women’s needs at the follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development, which seeks to review the implementation of the 2002 landmark anti-poverty agreement known as the Monterrey Consensus, to be held in Doha in November.“By making women active partners in addressing the world’s pressing food crisis, we can do much more than solve the immediate problem; we can pave the way for a more secure global future,” he said.A recent UN report points out that rural women face disadvantages in their access to healthcare and education.Gender inequalities persist in school attendance, with a greater percentage of rural boys attending schools than girls, due to such factors as the need for girls’ labour and the low education levels of their parents.Reproductive care for rural women is inadequate, the report states, and maternal mortality rates remain high, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank have teamed up for a joint publication, released today, on how rural women can overcome such challenges as discrimination, poverty and hunger.The Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook, based on the work of 100 international experts, highlights how increasing women’s involvement in the design and field testing of crop varieties, machinery and tools has the twin benefit of boosting both innovations and agricultural productivity.“Compared to men, women have much less access to essential productive resources such as land, irrigation, agricultural technology and extension services, less education and training, and fewer financial resources like credit,” said Marcella Villarreal, Director of FAO’s Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division.Information for the book was compiled over a two-year period, and draws attention to successful projects from all regions. 15 October 2008The United Nations today has marked the inaugural International Day of Rural Women, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issuing a call for greater appreciation of their role in providing food and incalculable support they give to their communities.