Deck stacked against rural women
The Jamaican Network of Rural Women Producers is moving to promote meaningful dialogue it hopes will go a far way in dismantling long-standing institutionalised biases which have been instrumental in keeping women, especially in rural Jamaica, firmly rooted at the foot of the economic ladder.
President Mildred Crawford told The Gleaner that in observance of International Day of Rural Women tomorrow, the local body has organised four events from October 20-28, to raise public awareness about how the deck is stacked against women in Jamaica.
In citing statistics to support this claim, Crawford pointed out that women involved in agriculture receive a measly one per cent of all agricultural credit and own only two per cent of all titled land. In addition, they have received only five per cent of all agricultural extension services, while accounting for 30 per cent of the farmers registered with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority. Despite this gross imbalance in resource allocation, according to Crawford, single women are heads of the 40 per cent of all rural households.
These are among the issues that topped the agenda recently at the town hall-style stakeholders meeting, when members of the group met with policymakers, executive from the agriculture and climate change ministries. The objective was critical dialogue on issues which will lead to long terms sustainable solutions.
Citing lack of political will to empower rural women with the tools to fully realise their potential, getting policymakers to close the yawning gap between policy and implementation at the grass roots level, will be a major focus of the Jamaican Network of Rural Women Producers.
"We want agriculture to be seen as decent work and our women within that sector to be recognised as contributors to the development of our country. We also want what is termed equality in that we get a fair share," Crawford declared.
"It doesn't have to be 50/50, but that we get a fair share in all agricultural activities managed by government access to land. Those agro parks they say that it is open to everybody, why is it that rural women are still not utilising more of those lands? More than 90 per cent of it is occupied by men.
"Whoever is screening it is gender biased so them just choose more men and women. We need to hear from them why? What are the criteria that they use? We want to see that rubric,?" Crawford declared.
However, Charles Reid, director of the agro parks being promoted through the agriculture minister says this is an unfair characterisation, instead offered this explanation: "It is just that women don't apply as aggressively to come on the parks as men do, but it (system) is not weighted against them in any way. Women just decide this is a man thing and not aggressively taking it up, it's just that they are not coming forward and taking their places in the ago parks," he told The Gleaner.