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Rural development policies

Rural development policies

"To deal with the subject of social development requires one to face, first and foremost, the issue of social iniquities of all kinds - gender, race, income, employment, universal access to collective consumer goods, and the like - which typify our society, and not limit such considerations to the single dimension of poverty. " (Brazilian National Report to the World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, 1995, p.14)

The search for an articulation between social and economic policies will generate an effective distribution of income. Another issue is how such social and economic policies should be put into practice: by exercising the right of citizenship, i.e., the rights of all citizens, not to be limited to mere compensation mechanisms in view of the forced exclusion of workers from the labour market.

"The Brazilian experience in recent years redefines citizenship and social participation as active factors of transformation in the development process, and no longer merely as compensations for the effects of the forces which have destructured the market..."

"a clear distinction should be made between social development in terms of relief from utter poverty and in terms of overcoming poverty. In the first case, policies of more immediate effect, of an assistential nature, shall apply, which, in the majority of cases, will focus on the more vulnerable groups of the population. In other words, there are policies which tend to take the form of emergency programmes. In the second case - the process of overcoming poverty we have to deal with policies of a medium and long-term reach, based on the erection of a new model of sustained development, in which priority is given to economic growth coupled with social equity, and in which economic policies also contain the dimension of social policies"... "the process of changing an excluding development pattern for another which includes and integrates all citizens, in the sense of providing for their basic needs and human aspirations, is necessarily slow, difficult and prone to generate conflicts, specially in a context in which inequalities prevail and with a long-standing tradition of the State exercising a centralising and authoritarian role." (Brazilian National Report, op. cit, pp 16-17).

Beyond striving for gender equality in the shortest period of time, the strategies and perspectives for rural women should reflect the priorities of the country, taking into consideration the development of the institutions and the persistence of serious economic and social problems, leading to the intensification of overall poverty and shortage of resources and basic services to the population.

The brief diagnosis we have presented of rural women in Brazil shows that the inequalities in access to productive resources such as land, credit, technology and qualification are persistent. The full participation of women in rural development is hampered by the impossibility of easy access to land. Another obstacle to this participation is of a legal nature, regarding the following aspects: constitutional (equality, civil and political rights), economic (credit, right to property and inheritance), labour(wages in keeping with her activities, work opportunities) and family (marriage, divorce, reproduction, family planning).

Women will only benefit from rural development after the following questions are solved: their participation in laws related to land reform, their right to land access, credit and qualification. The difficulty in obtaining access to property hinders women from presenting guarantees for credit. Therefore, easy access to credit, to transport and to commercial services would be a great help to enable women to contribute to rural development.

Brazil must promote a social development policy to lift 32 million people up from poverty and 16 million people from indigence. As we have seen, the causes of this situation are a low educational level, which leads to jobs with low productivity and low or non-existent qualifications; families headed by women and subjected to poverty, etc. In fact, if you are a Brazilian woman, are black, have a low educational level, are the head of the household, and have many children, you stand a 95% chance of being classified as poor.

There is no clear development policy for women. For instance: since 1988, the Constitution has guaranteed women the right to receive land; before, this was legally difficult or even impossible. However, whenever the government has the possibility of granting land, it does so to men. Female heads of households rarely receive plots in the colonisation programs, as in the National Integration Program (Programa de Integração Nacional - PIN) and in the Pro-Land Program (Pro-Terra), in the 70s.

The 1988 Constitution established that rural women could receive pensions from the age of 60, even if their husbands already had this benefit. Until then, the rural pension was half the minimum wage for men and was not granted to women, since each family could receive only one pension. The consequences have been extremely positive for women, since the pension gave them more autonomy and more economic freedom within the poverty levels and has contributed even towards their achievement of citizenship.

As a way of pressuring the government to implement programs that benefit the landless rural workers, organised families will often knock down fences of nonproductive large estates to occupy the land. From 1974 to 1994, more than 100,000 land registrations were made, where today more than 140,000 inhabitants live. But the battle for work does not stop with the conquest of the land. It is necessary to ''continue the war" in order to implement an agricultural policy directed to the interests of agriculture.

The government has shown great neglect of smallholders producers. When they receive a government loan they face great difficulties in paying it back and, if they fail, they have to give up the land and return to their former status of landless wage-labourers.

The vaccination programs against measles, chickenpox, and polio also reach the rural population, wherever they live -Amazon Valley, Northeastern backlands, Southern pampas, etc. This fact has enormously contributed to the drop in child mortality, which does not mean, however, that the quality of life of the population has improved.

Besides an agricultural policy which protects the survival of the family and the maintenance of property, it is necessary to promote some basic human rights, such as health services for women and family and, more importantly, education for all children and youth.

In Brazil, as in other countries, the technological model implemented both in urban and rural areas, is ecologically unsound. People, animals, land, soils are highly affected. It is not possible to imagine an easy and painless solution to the problems which affect the population as well as the environment. And normally, it is the weaker sectors of the society that are most affected.

Women and rural development policies

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