The first webinar “Latin America and Africa: Women, land and work. A compilation of knowledge and experiences for the implementation of the SDGs” will take place on July 8 at 3PM (Argentina) through Zoom.

The understanding of the rural women’s needs, priorities and problems has given rise to a global movement for their empowerment.

Rural women face multiple and complex economic, social and cultural barriers in accessing their rights. Their status varies considerably between regions and across the rural / urban division due to uneven economic development and to its impact on communities.

They play a vital, though unrecognized, role in regional rural economies as they are important contributors to crop production; livestock rearing; cottage industries; home-based enterprises.  In addition to these activities, they maintain their home and family; transport water, firewood and fodder to and from their homes; they prepare and preserve food; and take care for children, the elderly and disabled members of the household.

Most rural women have low education level and are considered to be family farm helpers or unskilled. Even when they do more than 60% of the agricultural work, they are not recognized as “farmers” because “the farmer” is the owner of the land and most women do not own the lands or smaller rural spaces where they work. This situation infringes rural women in general, despite the fact that they do more of the work than men do.

In order to analyze the challenges faced by rural women, we undertake this cycle of virtual meetings to reflect on their historical and emerging demands under the slogan WOMEN, LAND AND WORK: A COMPILATION COLLECTION OF KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCES FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SDGs

Register to the First Webinar Latin America and Africa: Women, Land and Work

Current situation

Today, rural women are a quarter of the world’s population. They contribute to the well-being of their families and to the development of rural economies and play a key role in ensuring food security and development and stability in their areas of work.

Despite the huge and invaluable contributions they make, rural women often lack the power to assure their right to the land and the access to basic services such as clean water, health, education and quality jobs. Even though they work the land more than 14 hours a day, in most developing countries they lack the access to information, training, supplies, credit and new and better opportunities. They also face a variety of constraints such as confinement and mobility, among the most important.

Traditionally, these women have always played a leading role in natural resources management. As an example, the indigenous knowledge of sustainable agriculture. This knowledge refers to rural women’s traditional initiatives that play a key role in designing both sustainable use of biodiversity and sustainable agricultural systems where rural populations develop. They also maintain innovations and interventions through their own experiences.

According to World Bank data, around 44% of the population in the world lives in rural areas and mainly depends on agriculture. About 75% percent of that population are farmers from small and very poor economies, where agriculture operates for subsistence. Most of female participation in the labor force is farming and animal husbandry.

Geographies and division of labor by gender

Women’s roles and division of labor differ according to geographical areas.

Fishing areas: women work as farmers in crops for export, as well as in household food production and are mainly involved in food processing and commerce.

Highlands and arid areas: women participate in the traditional peasant economy, there is a growing number of female heads of households due to male working migration. They are involved in all agricultural tasks, especially land preparation, sowing, weeding, harvesting and irrigation and are responsible for small-scale livestock and commerce.

Humid areas: the rural plant, including farmers and indigenous, practices basic survival monocultures (rice, cotton and corn, for example). In most cases, men are responsible for plowing, applying pesticides, and watering and women are particularly active in harvesting, harvesting storage and post-harvest care. While indigenous women participate in different phases of subsistence agriculture, female farmers work in homemade food production and participate in collecting and processing of crops for commerce. 

In all areas, women are primarily responsible for post-harvesting activities, such as processing and storage, and play a key role in livestock, especially when it comes to herding, feeding, milking and calving, while men shear, disinfect and vaccinate.

But work is becoming more difficult and time consuming due to ecological degradation and to the economic crisis. Still in all situations, women are not paid or are paid less than men for the same or equivalent work.

Decision-making

These women play a key role in household-related decisions, including those referred to production, resources use and expenditures. However, their role in decision-making tends to be demoted outside their household, especially in public agencies and in both the market and the financial sectors. It is regrettable that their vital contribution is scorned and that their right to food, education, land ownership, legal aid and income earning and management is denied. Although rural women contribute with more than 70% of agricultural labor, their role and contributions are underreported or remain undocumented.

Rural women in numbers

Women’s voices and concerns are often excluded from debates and processes in policy-making on agricultural and rural development. Most agricultural forums and agencies working at the public or private level rarely include women.

Most of them work an average of 12 to 14 hours a day for domestic and agricultural work facing this double burden.

Rural women and girls generally lack access to systematized agricultural information. According to the World Bank, the literacy rate for women aged +15 is estimated at 86%. However, in rural areas this rate drops to less than 50%. A study on agricultural productivity showed that if rural women received the same education as men do, agricultural yields would increase between 7% to 22%.

Many studies show a strong link between women’s access to education and agricultural productivity, a decrease in child malnutrition, and an increase in women’s confidence, skills and socio-economic status. However, despite some evidence of progress, access to full and equal education, especially in subjects most relevant to their daily lives, remains elusive for most rural girls.

Gender Violence

Women face systematic discrimination and gender-based violence. In addition, their rights are violated in the name of culture, traditions and norms. Rural women are more vulnerable to such crimes due to their lower level of education, less access to justice and isolation from support services that are few and far between.

Most countries have adhered to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Article 14th. of the CEDAW focuses on rural women, mandating signatory countries to take into account the particular problems that they face and the important roles that they play in the economic survival of their families, including their work in the informal sectors of the economy, and to take all appropriate measures to ensure the implementation of the covenants of the Convention.

It also states that countries will take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure that they participate in and benefit from rural development and, in particular, that it will guarantee their human rights. However, LDCs have faced the lack of suitable resources for the implementation of adequate public policies and have not taken all appropriate measures to eliminate women’s exclusion in order to ensure that they participate in and benefit from rural development and, in particular, the exercise of their rights.

Rural Women and the SDGs

In the analysis integrated to the SDGs, the issues that summons us are framed in the following objectives and goals:

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Target 1.4

By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Target 2.3

By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment 

Target 2.4

By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality

Goal 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls  

Target 5.1

End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere 

Target 5.2

Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation 

Target 5.3

Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation 

Target 5.4

Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate 

Target 5.5

Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life  

Target 5.6

Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences

Target 5.a

Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws 

Target 5.c

Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels

Activities

The purpose of the rounds of meetings on WOMEN, LAND AND WORK: A COMPILATION OF KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCES FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SDGs is to highlight the abovementioned inequalities by debating the situation of rural women in order to confront our society and find solutions to the due recognition and protection of their human rights.

It aims to provide a pooling from different approaches with a view to:

  1. Raising the profile of rural women
  2. Raising the audience on awareness of their complex, largely unrecognized roles, and
  3. Promoting actions in support of them

Based on Article 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, we propose to reflect on:

a) Living conditions
b) Access to land
c) Cooperatives and Community activities. Access to credit
d) Education and Literacy
e) Access to Services and New Technologies
f) Development Plans – Public Policies