Mozambique’s First Lady, Isaura Nyusi, has urged Mozambican women, particularly those living in the countryside, to devote themselves to selfless work in order to participate in the country’s development.

Addressing a ceremony marking the International Day of Rural Women in the district of Magude, in Maputo province, over the weekend, she recognized, however, the difficulties rural women faced in obtaining opportunities to contribute to the economy.

These included illiteracy, limited access to financial knowledge, child marriages and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, all of which undermined women’s involvement in development-related activities.

Other severe challenges facing women, she added, were the high rate of maternal mortality, domestic violence, and difficulties in obtaining treatment for such diseases as breast and cervical cancer.

Nevertheless, Isaura Nyusi was confident that all of these challenges could be met and overcome.

She noted that an estimated 87 per cent of the country’s 13 million women are farmers but their activities were mostly limited to small to medium sized plots of land. She added that only some 15 per cent of the country’s arable land was currently under cultivation.

“There is still much potential to be exploited”, she said, “and so we’re asking for more involvement by women”.

A representative of the Mozambican branch of UN Women was optimistic that, with activities tending to strengthen the presence of women in key development sectors, the sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the 2015-2030 period can be achieved.

That, however, depended on enhancing the empowerment of women.