What do rural women want?
This opinion piece was written by Caroline Namara, a journalist at Radio Bushenyi FM and social worker in the remote rural area of Bushenyi, in western Uganda. She has heard first-hand the many challenges rural women and farmers face, and writes about what needs to be done to engage and empower rural women.
Rural women are suffering. They are the ones who are doing the majority of subsistence agriculture in my country. They work really hard with little results to show.
So what do rural women want?
Rural women want information. Their main area of work is farming, but they lack basic information on the best ways to grow and maintain their crops. Women in my community grow food for daily subsistence but not for profits or larger commercial business. They invest little, they eat the crops, and it’s finished. But they need to earn money to cater for their needs.
Why is information so important?
One problem is that their soil is not fertile because they keep growing [the same] crops each season. Year in and year out. So the soil loses its fertility, and then their productivity is low.
These women live in remote areas and don’t have access to the internet or sometimes even mobile phones. So they also don’t have information on fertilizer application. They don’t know they can add fertility to their farms.
Women want information on agricultural best practices. They want technologies so they are not being limited.
Preparing the soil is time-consuming. The technology they are using is time-wasting. They need time- and labour-saving technologies. They use small hoes to cultivate a small piece of land. It takes a lot of time for a woman to [cultivate] an acre of beans using a small hoe. It will actually take three weeks or even a month with a small hoe. That does not include planting and harvesting. For a woman to harvest a sack of beans, it could take three to four months. Think about someone who has a tractor: it might take one day. This is what women need.
Women need to be empowered in terms of gender relations. Men and women in my community need to be brought together. In my community, women don’t own land, so whatever they produce is not theirs. They put so much of their time and energy and it’s not theirs. They don’t own anything. At the end of the day, the men are the ones to market their products. Once a woman harvests her crops, she doesn’t see where the money goes.
So she doesn’t control anything. This frustrates many women.
How can governments and leaders help rural women?
Agriculture is the backbone for most developing countries. It is the source of income and also the main source of food. Agriculture is one of the main industries in Uganda and employs 60% of the labour force.
But governments need to understand the limitations that rural women face. Our government has a program called “Operation Wealth Creation.” It is a good program. They are giving out inputs such as seeds, chickens, or cows to farmers. But they require that farmers build a poultry house or a cow shed before giving these inputs.
This causes a problem. Remember, rural women don’t have money to do these things. If you tell me to meet these requirements before getting inputs, I can’t do it. So, still women remain poor because of that limitation. If a woman doesn’t have access to money and resources, all of the programs in the world cannot help her.
Women and girls want an education. If a woman is not educated in my community, even if you bring her information, she will not take it seriously. Education helps women to get over their inferiority and it gives them the confidence to believe that they can do it.
There are a lot of stereotypes in my community. These have to be removed and education can help with this. Being educated is the best thing for every rural woman.
Women do want to stay in agriculture. They are proud to be farmers, but only if they are empowered: if they have information, if they can access land freely, and if they can control resources, (how their money is spent). If they can achieve all that, they are happy to stay in agriculture and help to feed their nation.
Caroline Namara is a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner and was part of our Her Voice on Air project. She recently participated in the International Journalism Festival in Italy, presenting about amplifying the voices of rural women. This story was originally published on the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) blog. The original story can be found here: https://www.ifad.org/web/latest/blog/asset/40280926