Agronoticias: Agriculture News from Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America and The Caribbean


Promoting activism against gender inequality

International Women’s Day 2018 focuses on social movements that have come to the forefront over the past year. Breaking the cycle of gender-based discrimination in rural and urban environments has become a key objective for guaranteeing development.

Indigenous woman in Brazil

2017 was an important year for the fight for gender equality, which rose to the top of the global agenda. Through the powerful mobilization of individuals and organizations, feminism transformed from an institutional issue to becoming ever-present in our daily lives, moving from theory to public debate, from the podium to the streets and public squares. Campaigns against femicide, the salary gap and sexual harassment kindled the debate in the United States, which spread rapidly throughout the world, gaining ground in the various economic sectors and social contexts. The inspiration for this year’s International Women’s Day comes from the fight for change, with a slogan focused on transformation across all levels.

"Time is now: rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives” is the slogan proposed by the United Nations, paying homage to activism that strives for change in gender-based discrimination. António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, was assertive with his message: “Let me be clear: this is not a favor to women. Gender equality is a human rights issue, but it is also in all our interests: men and boys, women and girls. Gender inequality and discrimination against women harms us all.”

Rural women, a necessary precedent

Rurality plays a fundamental role in this transformation. According to FAO, rural women are guarantors of the food security of their respective communities. “They constitute 43% of the agricultural work force in developing countries and they are the ones who produce the majority of the global food harvest,” Alan González, FAO representative in El Salvador, confirmed recently. Women are also fundamental agents in climate change resilience and usually engage in strenuous work – from taking care of the home to intensive hours working in the field.

Despite this fact, their work often goes unrecognized or remains invisible – a fact that not only hurts local, national and regional economies, but also leads to a precarious situation of uncertainty and scant economic autonomy for women. According to UN Women, this precarious nature has adverse impacts on their quality of life and severe effects on their health and the health of their families. For example, rural women have 38% less possibilities of receiving professional assistance while giving birth than urban women. This gap is even more severe in the case of women in indigenous and Afro-descendent communities.

The reality of gender-based discrimination is reflected in food security: in Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, where the rural population represents 21% of the total population, 30% of women suffer from hunger, while only 25% of men go hungry.

The following graph (FAO, 2017) compares the number of hours worked by rural and urban men and women in 8 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. It shows the pattern of discrimination that repeats itself in nearly all of these countries – despite working a similar number of hours, urban men have a higher percentage of paid work than rural men, which, in turn, have a higher percentage than urban women, while rural women are the lowest of this entire group. The graph also shows the rural-urban gap among women – although rural women work the same or more hours than urban women, the percentage of remuneration is systematically inferior.

Gráfico del Atlas de las Mujeres Rurales en América Latina y el Caribe (2017) indicando la brecha salarial entre hombres y mujeres y rural-urbana.

Recognizing their rights

Approximately one out of every 10 people that own agricultural land in the world are women. Considering as much, the recognition of rural women’s rights can accelerate their advancement towards a position of equality, setting a very necessary precedent in Latin America and the Caribbean. And it works – cases of reforms regarding land tenure and ownership in Brazil, where the number of married women or those living with their couples that have registered their land in their name has increased from 23% to 72% in 12 years. The percentage in Bolivia increased in 2014 from 9% to 46% of women that owned land. In fact, Bolivia has the highest rate of female economic participation in agriculture in all of South America, at 41.8%. The Caribbean has the lowest rate, notably Belize (3.2%), the Bahamas (0.0%) and Guadalupe (0.0%).

According to Guterres, “investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies, and even countries. Women’s participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous. Where women face discrimination, we often find practices and beliefs that are detrimental to all. Paternity leave, laws against domestic violence and equal pay legislation benefit everyone.” 

Author: Agronoticias FAO
Photo Credit: 1- APIB Comunicação (CC BY-SA 2.0); Graphic © FAO 2017 (see link),

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