As the U.N. International Day of Rural Women on Oct. 15 spotlights the key role women play in the dynamic economies of the developing world, you may see some striking statistics and platitudes on the topic. These are meant to highlight the inequality and discrimination rural women around the world face, and inspire us to recommit to advancing their rights and agency.
There’s just one problem: many factoids about the noble struggles of rural women in developing countries aren’t true. These widely circulated myths do contain a kernel of truth: in general, rural women work hard, with fewer resources at their disposition than men. But despite the good intentions behind them, they promote stereotypes of women as either victims or saviors, and hinder the design and implementation of programmes that can concretely advance women’s opportunities on the ground.