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Prize for Women's
Creativity in Rural Life


Panorama photos 
Rural Women at a glance 
2009 Press Release 
2008 Press Release 
2007 Press Release 
Frequently asked questions 
What People Say 
Nomination Guidelines for 2010 


Rural Women at a glance

Rural women comprise more than one quarter of the total world population. 500 million women live below the poverty line in rural areas. Women produce 60-80 per cent of basic foodstuffs in sub-Sahara Africa and the Caribbean. Women perform over 50 per cent of the labour involved in intensive rice cultivation in Asia. Women perform 30 per cent of the agricultural work in industrialised countries. Women head 60 per cent of households in some regions of Africa. Women meet 90 per cent of household water and fuel needs in Africa. Women process 100% of basic household food stuffs in Africa.

"Rural women the world over are an integral and vital force in the development processes that are the key to socio-economic progress. Rural women from the backbone of the agricultural labour force across much of the developing world and produce 35-45% of Gross Domestic Product and well over 50% of the developing world's food. Yet, half a billion rural women are poor and lack access to resources and markets." (Geneva Declaration for rural women 1992).

Women at a glance

Status of Women

  • Women have not achieved equality with men in any country.
  • Of the world's 1,3 billion poor people, it is estimated that nearly 70% are women.
  • Between 75 and 80% of the world's 27 million refugees are women and children.
  • Women's life expectancy, educational attainment and income are highest in Sweden, Canada, Norway, USA and Finland.
  • The Fourth World Conference on Women (China, September 1995) resulted in agreement by 189 delegations on a five-year plan to enhance the social, economic and political empowerment of women, improve their health, advance their education and promote their reproductive rights.
  • Five years later, the economic conditions faced by women in sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe have deteriorated; increased indebtedness of certain countries is associated with deterioration in girl's enrolment in secondary school; household income inequality increased across a wide range of countries, particularly in Eastern Europe and other developed countries, suggesting that "poor women have not enjoyed much of the fruits of any progress".

Political Participation

  • Only 24 women have been elected heads of state or government in this century.
  • Of the 185 highest-ranking diplomats to the UN, seven are women.

Women and Education

  • Of the world's nearly one billion illiterate adults, two-thirds are women.
  • Two-thirds of the 130 million children worldwide who are not in school are girl.

Women and the Economy

  • The majority of women earn on average about three-fourths of the pay of males for the same work, outside of the agricultural sector, in both developed and developing countries.
  • In most countries, women work approximately twice the unpaid time men do.
  • Rural women produce more than 60% of all food grown in developing countries.
  • The value of women's unpaid housework and community work is estimated at between 10-35 % of GDP worldwide, amounting to $ 11 trillion in 1993.

Women and Population

  • Women outlive men in almost every country.
  • By 2025, the proportion of women aged 60 or older will almost double in East and South-East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North Africa.

Women and Health

  • HIV is increasingly affecting women.
  • An estimated 20 million unsafe abortions are performed worldwide every year, resulting in the deaths of 70'000 women.
  • Approximately 600'000 women die every year, over 1'600 every day, from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 13 women will die from pregnancy or childbirth related causes, compared to 1 in 3'300 women in the USA.

Women and Violence

  • Each year and estimated two million girls suffer the practice of female genital mutilation.
  • Worldwide, 20 to 50 % of women experience some degree of domestic violence during marriage.
  • The primary victims of today's armed conflicts are civilian women and their children, not soldiers.
  • The use of rape as a weapon of war has become more evident.

(The statistics are culled from a variety of sources and are valid as of December 1999 according to UN DPI/Rev.1.


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Frequently asked questions

Why a Prize for women's creativity in rural life?

  • To draw international attention to women's contributions to sustainable development, household food security and peace, as well gain recognition and support for their community work. While rural women are vital in providing examples of sound practices they still do not have full access to tools needed for development, such as education, credit, land rights and participation in decision making. By highlighting and awarding their creative development models, innovations and experiences, WWSF participates in alleviating poverty and marginalisation.

What changes does the Prize for women's creativity in rural life catalyze?

  • In innumerable rural communities the Prize has enhanced the status of unknown innovative women active in rural communities who became respected community leaders. Time and again, prizewinners have attained national status and have become involved in decision making both locally, regionally and sometimes internationally.

What do Laureates do with the prize money?

  • The award per laureate, which is our acknowledgement for the Laureate's creative efforts to improve life in rural communities and represents our solidarity gift, is in most cases reinvested in the prizewinner's activities and programs.

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What people say
about the Prize for women's creativity in rural life

Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

"... It is with great pleasure that I welcome this excellent initiative to award in Geneva the Prize for women's creativity in rural life and celebrate World Rural Women's Day. I would like to convey my best wishes and salute the Women's World Summit Foundation..."

Dialogue Nord-Sud, Cameroon

"...We appreciate the efforts of your organization to work for the implementation of women's rights. We send you total support."


"...We are happy to have discovered your organization and congratulate you on the empowerment you are to rural women."

Zambian Women in Agriculture, Zambia

"...a brilliant idea for you to create and initiate the Women's World Summit Foundation but also a very inspiring and motivating one. A million thanks on behalf of Zambian Women in Agriculture. The community based organization has not only achieved local or national recognition but a slot in the Women's World Summit Foundation, thus creating history."

Mouvement des Travailleurs Ruraux Sans Terre, Brazil

".We congratulate you for founding the Women's World Summit Foundation which is a boon to rural women and children..."

International Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture IICA, Costa Rica
(a coalition of 34 member states)

"...We are very interested in co-sponsoring your Foundation's campaigns to promote WWSF and the annual award of the "Prize for women's creativity in rural life", and thus becoming an official sponsor of the campaign..."

Mercy and Grace Charitable Trust, India

"...we thank God for the wonderful service your foundation is doing for the welfare and development of women and children who live below the poverty line via your empowerment programs..."

Self-Employed Women's Association SEWA, India

"...we thank you for your encouragement and support and we are all so proud of WWSF efforts in bringing visibility to the struggle of poor rural women..."

Rural Women Welfare Organization, Pakistan

"...WWSF has provided a powerful platform and fruitful campaign for the development of rural women..."

Center for Conflict Resolution, Zambia:

"... I have read your very impressive July 2001 Global Newsletter. I found the contents most interesting and inspiring. The sisterly spirit of your organisation is apparent and I am impressed by the fact that you focus on ordinary women who in small ways are making a tremendous impact on their own lives and those of members in their communities..."

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Nomination Guidelines
Next prize awards in 2010

Awarded since 1994 by WWSF Women's World Summit Foundation - an international, non-profit, humanitarian NGO, serving the implementation of women’s and children’s rights and the UN development agenda - the Prize ($ 1000 per laureate and $ 3000 for specific African women’s organisations), honors women and women's groups around the world exhibiting exceptional creativity, courage and commitment for the improvement of the quality of life in rural communities (354 prizes awarded so far). The Prize aims to draw international attention to laureates' contributions to sustainable development, household food security and peace, thus generating recognition and support for their projects. While rural women are vital in providing examples of sound practice in their communities, they still do not have full access to tools needed for development, such as education, credit, land rights and participation in decision making. By highlighting and awarding creative development models, innovations and experiences enhancing the quality of rural life, WWSF participates in addressing the eradication of rural poverty, gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment.


  • Nominees should be women and women’s groups currently active in rural life whose efforts have not yet been acknowledged by other awards. They may not nominate themselves.
  • The nominating organization or individual must have direct experience of the nominee's work. The nominator may not nominate a family member, be a member of the nominated organization, nor can an organization nominate its senior officer (i.e. founder, president etc.). No more than 3 nominees may be presented by the same person/organization in the same year. The nominator commits to organize an award ceremony if the candidate is selected for the Prize and invite the media.


  1. Original signed letter of nomination indicating how the nominator knows the nominee and for how long.
  2. Biographical data on the nominee (full name, age, education, place of work, background) and a detailed history of the nominee's creative project (written by the nominator) including her motivation, innovative aspects, any obstacles overcome, and the impact in the community. Nominations must specify whether the nominee has received or is currently being nominated for other awards.
  3. Two original and signed endorsement letters from organizations or individuals other than the nominator and, if possible, additional supporting materials such as newspaper articles or publications.
  4. A few labeled photographs clearly showing the nominee(s) for possible publication.


The long-term impact of the Prize depends on the integrity of the nominators and the quality of their nominations. The Prize is an award for successful accomplishments rather than a fund for future projects. The nominee's history (2-3 pages) should demonstrate the creativity, courage and sometimes sacrifice in her efforts at the grass roots to improve life in rural communities. Descriptions should be as specific as possible.

Any of the following elements should be emphasized:

  • Exceptional courage and perseverance in improving rural life
  • Creativity in the approach
  • Preservation of and respect for the environment
  • Continuing impact on the community

Laureates are selected by an international Jury composed of WWSF Board of Directors; are announced officially in September and celebrated in their countries on 15 October – International Day of Rural Women. WWSF has a commitment to award annually 5-10 creative rural women and women's groups around the world. To read about the laureates, visit our web site

WWSF Women’s World Summit Foundation, 11 avenue de la Paix, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland
E-mail: Web
Nomination materials should arrive no later than 31 March through the post.


Prize Nomination Form

download the nomination form in Pdf format (135 Kb)

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