Women grow more than half of the world’s food. Their work is both wide-ranging and multifaceted, and they perform multiple tasks in the sphere of agriculture and biodiversity conservation.
Who are women in agriculture?
Women are food producers
Women are custodians of seeds
Women are managers of biodiversity
Women are holders of traditional, local and indigenous knowledge
Women are the authority on the interface of livestock keeping and farming
Women are the key to ensuring the survival of millions of people in all regions!
“Gone are the community’s wisdom and women’s knowledge in maintaining valuable resources to save them for the next generation.” – Declaration of Southern Female Fisherfolk Netwrok
Women are not being recognized!
There is little recognition of their significant role and contributions to the socio-economic development of a nation. The entrenched social and religious norms that define women’s roles as secondary and subordinate keep women vulnerable and dependent, and allow women to be exploited as agricultural workers and farmers. All these factors have intensified women’s impoverishment, displacement and hunger.
In the experience and learnings of the Women in Agriculture (WIA) Programme, PAN AP have noticed that the threats to women’s knowledge, their control, access and rights to seeds and genetic resources are being restricted/destroyed by the emergence of the Green and Gene Revolutions; and new seed laws and International Property Rights (IPRs) that protect corporate rights rather than farmers’ rights.
The growth of corporate agriculture has spread tremendously in recent years that the impact it has on farmers, especially on women farmers is indeed a cause for concern, coupled by the fact that in most South Asian countries, patriarchy still exist. The reality and impact of corporate agriculture on women continues to grow as women continue to be invisible, exploited and discriminated against.
“We will defend our land and resources for our children and for future generations.” - SAPO
For PAN AP, the struggle for rural women’s empowerment is the struggle for women’s rights and equality, encompassing the rights of women to productive resources, safe working conditions, the right to health and reproductive rights, and to food sovereignty.
Through WIA, PAN AP has facilitated the process for rural women from different sectors to come together, share experiences and build on perspectives on rural women’s concerns. PAN AP is also an active partner of the Steering Committee of the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition and together with the other SC members, PAN AP works to ensure that the results of the 2008 March Conference are concretised and followed-through with actions. The ARWC is a strategic platform for rural women’s movements to ensure that it brings rural women’s voices and highlight their issues and demands at the international level. The ARWC, through the SC, mapped out its strategic focus in the succeeding years; therefore, the strategies of the WIA are complementary with ARWC’s plans.
In relation to the promotion of BEA, the Documentation of Women’s Knowledge Systems, through participatory action research, was a significant contribution towards recognising the roles, skills and knowledge systems of women as food providers, producers and managers of biodiversity ensuring food security for the family and communities. Furthermore, a roundtable discussion on women and genetic resources developed a gendered framework on genetic resource conservation, use and management, and would be used by women farmers and advocates as a platform for policy advocacy and critical engagements with International Conventions and Treaties on Food and Agriculture issues with a gendered lens.
In addition, the research agenda of the programme focuses on documenting the impact of corporate agriculture and pesticides (Ruined Lives ... Ravaged Livelihoods: Impact of Agrochemical TNCs on Rural Women and Who’s Controlling the Food Now? A Look Into Corporate Agriculture and Gender); and women’s assertion of rights to livelihood and health (Women's Resistance and Struggles Booklet 1 and Booklet 2), documenting trends and experiences of rural women in several Asian countries.
Recognising the importance of ensuring equal and high participation of women in all of PAN AP’s activities, PAN AP is now mainstreaming women’s issues and perspectives into all its programmes and activities.