The rural sectors of the world are some of the most hidden places; but the women who live there are even more invisible. Rural women lack opportunities and rights, rendering them silent, especially those within rural areas of large cities. Forty-three per cent of the agricultural workforce across the world is made up of women, yet they lack the same access to tools, credit, agricultural materials, and chains of high-value crops that men have, according to the United Nations (UN). They also don’t enjoy equal access to public services such as education and health care, access to clean drinking water, or sanitation. In many communities, the agricultural work done by rural women goes unseen and is often unpaid.
AMFAR, the association of rural women and families, suggest depopulation, inequality, and a lack of development as what’s hindering their access to the labor market and the economic viability of rural areas. In Spain, almost six million women dedicate their work to rural areas, and 54 per cent of them are entrepreneurs, despite all of the obstacles they face. Yet, a rural woman’s pay generally ranges from 400 to 1,000 Euros a month, while a rural man can earn between 1,000 and 1,400 Euros monthly.
Over the past three years, the rural Spanish population has decreased at a rate of 45 people per year. Of the small Spanish villages with populations under 8,000, more than 60 per cent are facing a possible demographic extinction because of a decreased birthrate.
“We must increase the participation of women in the labor market and help them achieve their economic independence,” said Lola Merino Chacón, the president of AMFAR. We must help them reduce the gendered wage gap and promote equal decision making, both within the home and in professional fields, and end violence against women while protecting and supporting victims, she said.
Gendered violence affects women of the rural world in an intensified way in comparison to their urban counterparts. Rural women who experience acts of violence account for 60 per cent of the rural mortality rate.
Chacón stresses the importance of implementing policies and carrying out measures that encourage rural women who don’t already work, to do so. With strength in numbers, she suggests this effort will help guarantee social services, the development of new technologies, and promote equal opportunities for all rural people. With six million rural women, they are vital to promote the economy and should therefore, be the center of rural development policies.
“[These women] are vital for economic diversification, for territorial structuring, and for the generation of employment and wealth,” said Chacón. “For this, they must be the center of rural development policies.”
FADEMUR, a federation for rural women, said that in many cases, women who work in family farms, “suffer all the disadvantages of working but don’t benefit from any of its advantages,” because they do so without remuneration, social rights, and professional identities.
On Oct. 15, 2017, the International Day of Rural Women, the UN highlighted the importance of incorporating women into agricultural policies, increasing the number of women who own land, and giving rural women better access to investments.
Rural work is not just a man’s field and the outdated approaches to rural agricultural work must be challenged. Rural women need equal access, pay, and opportunities. And the first step, is making these women the center of development policies in the hidden parts of the world, the rural areas.
Virginia Romero Banon