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The unsung role of women in farming

Submitted by on 18 Feb 2011 – 10:59

By Giancarlo Scottà MEP

The agricultural sector occupies a very important place in the European setting: it is under a period of renewal and reforms within the debate for the introduction of the new Common Agricultural Policy after 2013. The discussion is about the achievement of the goals of economic efficiency and competitiveness in agriculture. In this context, one of the main actors is represented by women. The agricultural sector needs new and promising prospects in order to maintain social, cultural and environmental essential values.

The agricultural sector needs feminine sensibility: the capacity and ability of women can contribute to the innovation and the rural development. Women in agriculture commit themselves to assume an active role in order to start a business that is normally carried out by men and to corner farm market. At the same time they aim to revive local traditions and to develop and improve agricultural heritage. They know how to preserve the rural territory through their contributions of ideas and proposals. They are present especially in innovative activities such as in farm holidays, teaching farms, in biological agriculture and viticulture. Their leading role is to look at their business with great attention, in order to improve products quality and traditions tied to the territory. Tradition is preserved by a deep feeling for earth and this allows women to have an important place in local rural communities. Activities like farm catering, embroidery and direct selling generate a significant effect on developing the rural territory and on the approach of the agriculture with the society.

Unfortunately, many difficulties impede women in their activities: the status of women constrains them to blend their professional business with their own familiar business. The number of women employed part-time in the agricultural sector represents 86% of women workers. The entry of young women in the agricultural business is difficult and this is the reason why the majority of women factory managers are more than 65 years old. In addition to this most of the women assumes the role of “Partner

assistants”. That means they assist their husbands in agricultural activities and they have no right to a legal status, consequently they aren’t adequately paid. Moreover, the farm ownership in many cases is attributed to women although their husbands manage the activities and obtain remuneration.

The European Union has to be actively engaged in supporting their presence providing them with a legal status and an equitable remuneration. We need to highlight the successful activities of women involved in agriculture, promoting an environment where local development, biodiversity, cultural heritage and quality of life are a must for the sector. The aim is to support the achievement of female figures in a field where work is often temporary and seasonal despite the fact that they are already engaged in their traditional roles of wives, mothers and daughters. Women’s living and working conditions must be improved and their knowledge, skills and experience in the production of food and the conservation of biodiversity must be recognised and improved.