During the Summit of the W20 - the G20 engagement group on gender equality - experts from IICA, the UN and the World Bank agreed that improving working and living conditions for rural women is crucial to promoting development. IICA is co-chair of W20 in its work on Rural Women.
Buenos Aires, 3 October 2018 (IICA). Improving the living and working conditions of women is crucial to efforts to promote development and banish malnutrition among millions of people, according to experts who gathered today in Buenos Aires at the Summit of the W20, the G20 engagement group that works for gender equality.
This was the conclusion reached by the discussion panel on “The invisibility of rural women and their role in development,” in which the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) - the W20’s co-chair for work on Rural Women -, participated through its Policy Specialist, Edith Obschatko.
According to Obschatko, recognizing the role of women from rural areas is “key to countries’ development,” given that this group represents more than one quarter of the global population and 43% of the agricultural labor force.
Despite their important role in rural work and their vital contribution to food production, rural women earn on average 25% less than men. In addition, they must contend with a “disproportionate” lack of access to land, production resources, infrastructure, connectivity, potable water, education, health and justice, compared with rural men and urban women. They constitute “an unrepresented group that has little or no impact on public policies,” Obschatko added.
“Greater empowerment of rural women through education, technology, production resources and political participation would give the world more production, more food and less hunger,” she emphasized.
Reaffirming this view, Carole Megevand, of the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Program in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, noted that the obstacles affecting rural women reduce productivity by between 22 and 30%, and that addressing these barriers would imply “lifting between 100 and 120 million people out of hunger.”
The Director of Programs for UN Women, Maria-Noel Vaeza, referred to the juridical and legal aspects that constitute “extreme barriers” for rural women, such as their inability to own land in 52 countries, and mentioned the groups that suffer the highest levels of discrimination in rural areas, such as indigenous women and disabled women, and those who are forced into early marriage.
For her part, the Vice-president of Public Affairs and Communications of the multinational beverage company Coca Cola, Soledad Izquierdo, stated that for global value chains the development of rural women “is linked to the growth of businesses,” and acknowledged that her company’s strength and ability to make 4,100 products in more than 200 countries “lies in the countryside where the raw materials are, and where women are the motor.”
To address the invisibility of rural women, Obschatko stressed that “it is crucial to recognize their importance, their living conditions and the discrimination and inequality that they suffer daily.” She agreed with the rest of the panel on the need to ensure their participation in infrastructure projects, and guarantee their access to land, production and financial resources, technical assistance and social services.
In order to accomplish that goal, she called for the dissemination of more and better information on rural women, either through the statistical systems or the mass media, to which she assigned an “enormous and important role in addressing this challenge.”
In this regard, she announced two initiatives by IICA: firstly, the forthcoming launch of the book “Warriors – Rural Women around the World,” a compilation of articles by 28 experts from the five continents, expressing their positions on the role of rural women workers, and secondly, a partnership with the Brazilian edition of Vogue magazine to “highlight the rich contributions of rural women” and “place their customs at the center of a leading publication” in a specific segment, as “one more element to make them visible.”
The launch of both these initiatives will be implemented in the context of disseminating IICA’s position regarding the issue of gender equality in rural areas, a cross-cutting issue in the programs and work topics of this hemispheric organization specializing in agriculture and rural development.
In her closing remarks to the panel, Megevand urged countries to stop considering “women as victims” because “we are agents of change. If we are given access to land, credit and technology we will stop being victims and we will be at the forefront of development.”
The W20 Summit, which opened on Monday and concludes on Wednesday at the Kirchner Cultural Center in the city of Buenos Aires, will complete the work cycle of the engagement group under Argentina’s presidency, and will present to President Mauricio Macri a final document of recommendations for the G20 leaders.
The W20 group is a transnational network that brings together women leaders from civil society, business entrepreneurs and members of think tanks and seeks to influence policy agendas in order to increase women’s participation in their countries’ economies and societies.
One of the group’s objectives for this year is to promote the inclusion of rural women in the labor market through better access to financial and technological services and to strengthen their involvement in businesses associated with food production or other productive enterprises.
Sonia Novello, Communication Specialist, IICA Delegation in Argentina