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Much has been written and said about the fuller, more equal and less onerous role which rural women, especially in African countries should play in the context of national socio-economic development and about the policies and programmes to be pursued to bring this about. The starting point of this study is the observations and analysis by the author of concrete situations of two African countries, i.e. to show what the actual pattern of employment and labour utilisation as well as the skill needs and ways of acquiring them are among women in rural communities.

It is on the basis of his field studies that the author, who has many years of experience in field work with rural people, puts forward a number of conclusions and suggestions about rural “women-power”, its development and utilisation. These views may not find general agreement among all concerned with improving the lot of rural women, but the author makes the point forcefully that adequate knowledge about what the present situation really is and what the tendencies are is essential to working out policies and programmes to bring about changes and improvements which are acceptable to the rural community at large and which are therefore likely to be effective.

The study is a revised version of a working paper issued in the framework of the ILO World Employment Programme and specifically its Research Project on Education and Employment. This project, which is supported by a grant from DANIDA, aims at elucidating the education/training-labour market-employment links with a special view to contributing to the knowledge base of policy making in these areas. While the ILO has commissioned the working paper and encouraged its preparation in many ways, it does not necessarily share the conclusions and suggestions expressed by the author.

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