The role of women in rural development has been neglected. Integrated rural development plans for increased food production, improvement in nutrition and provision of primary health care are unattainable without the cooperation of rural women. It is not simply a question of providing employment opportunities for women, as they are already overburdened with work, but of integrating women fully into the process of development and its benefits. The single most important determinant of social change is the level of female literacy. Primary education for girls, and vocational training to enable women to upgrade their skills and increase their productivity, are neglected. Little attention is given to the improvement of traditional technology and equipment. Rural industrialization eliminates women as producers of traditional crafts and does not seek to integrate them into the new industries. Governments' delivery systems in all regions are manned mostly by males and are directed mainly to male producers; even where, as in some countries of Africa, more than 70% of the farmers are women. In regard to agricultural credit, they are denied access because they lack title to land collateral. Most agricultural extension agents are men, and cater mainly to Male clientele. Women do not participate, nor contribute on an equal basis with men in the social, economic and political processes of rural development, nor share fully in improved conditions of life in rural areas. Where development efforts are directed toward women, their problems tend to be seen as separate, rather than facets of the culture and structure of society. Full membership and equal rights for women in rural worker's organizations must still be promoted.
Social and religious prejudice militates against the full integration of women in development programmes, regardless of the fact that 'traditional' occupations of women in developing countries concern both agriculture and nutrition, and that backwardness in these areas is a fundamental obstacle to general development. Lack of progress in population control and control of disease is also aggravated by women's lack of education and their non-participation in development. Underutilization of human resources is another result, unemployment in general under the present systems contributing to the restriction of women's participation. Lack of participation by women may result in the ineffectiveness of such programmes and a retarding of national development.
Women, who constitute more than half of the population, should not be left on the fringes of national development, thereby creating a stumbling block to any effort to introduce real changes. Too many governments are still not sufficiently aware of the benefits to be derived from women's contribution to development. Their ideas in that regard remain narrow, although if development is to have any chance of success it must be integral and integrated. Involvement of women is particularly important both from a moral angle, because of the discrimination to which women have been and still are subjected, and from the material angle, because of the effects of such discrimination on their role in society.
Traditional occupations of women in developing countries affect many aspects of the social-economic development process. Women have a vital role in food production, food processing and food preparation, marketing, in water management, in health and sanitation of the whole family, in collecting sources of energy, etc. In many cases women in developing countries, although overworked, do participate in development. Women's roles and activities are unrecognized, taken for granted or undervalued.