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Aiding Rural Women to Stand Up for Gender Equality

Despite the many societal prejudices of our era, despite the usual stereotypes, women in reality are equally resilient, skilled and capable as men.

The end of the male-biased era means more women succeeding in politics, agriculture, business, and even more successful female scientists, educators, and leaders. The success of women can be unquestionably ascribed to the environment where women’s rights are fully respected, and where social equality with men is considered an inevitable and natural part of the reality of people.

Gender and Agriculture

Historically, agriculture has been viewed mistakenly as a sector which does not provide job opportunities for women because the operations that take place in a typical farm are “back-breaking”. This frequently held misconception was interestingly commented by an educated and articulate rural woman after a long day of work in one of the remotest rural areas in the Republic of Kosovo. As the evening progressed, she was sitting and looking at the rectangular haystacks in her farm, and I posed my first interview question to her. I asked her respectfully about her work and status as a rural woman, she replied,

“It is indeed difficult at times to understand our male counterparts. They feel certain to say that we, as rural women, may not be physically fit to run farms with efficiency. They tend to relate farm’s success with physical strength and endurance. I think that is wrong. Agriculture is not only about physical strength and endurance. It is about love, human interdependence with nature, compassion towards animals, and cognizance. It is also about showing a brave and fighting spirit in this challenging and constantly changing economic sector. In general, I reckon it is the right time in the 21st century to demolish the idea that women are ‘in name only’ important in fostering sustainable economic development”.

The Republic of Kosovo, despite the fact that it is landlocked and its relatively small land area, is a place where agriculture plays a strategic role in boosting economic vitality. As a young and dedicated agricultural student, I have personally observed when visiting numerous rural areas in my country that rural women have a tremendous potential to help their communities survive and thrive. I had the chance to communicate with rural women barely succeeding to make a living, and with rural women who have been indubitably successful in running their family farms. Interestingly, in spite of their low socioeconomic status, they are remaining loyal to their professions in the realm of agriculture.

The majority of the rural women in the Republic of Kosovo are in good positions in running mainly their family farms, but only a few have had the chance to run medium- and large-sized farms. However, leadership experience running family farms may be a witness for their future success. As a matter of fact, it may motivate them to continue to exercise their professions in agriculture. I am certain that if more women are given the chance to run influential farms in my country, but even beyond in the Balkan Peninsula, they will provide in turn positive effects for their communities, and for the overall economic health of their countries.

In retrospect, agricultural education has definitely helped me invigorate my interest in meeting my aspiration of becoming an Agricultural Policy Analyst. Education may also serve as a catalyst for personal development and help rural women set higher goals for themselves. In point of fact, I aim in the future to push forward in the Republic of Kosovo an initiative to update women’s knowledge, and skills through providing exclusive training programs to them, regardless of age, income or ability level. I consider education as the first right step that women can take towards campaigning for their rights to be respected.

Seeing women’s increasing willingness in engaging in the agricultural sector is amazing. Regardless of the wrong impressions in the public’s mind about women’s role in agriculture, they never stop hoping to achieve their dreams. Women are decisive, as they say in Germany “Between a woman’s ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ there is no room for the point of a needle”. In agriculture, decisiveness is a prerequisite for success and plays a vital role in managing the supply chain of farm produce. If women possess this quality, then let us cheerfully acknowledge it.

But, what are these specific roles that both genders can play in agriculture?

Men’s role in Agriculture

Certainly, men value and emphasis as natural the interdependence with women partners in their day-to-day life. They do not hesitate to admit the facts that women are effective in running the household finances, responsible for their kids’ healthy growth, and visionary for their kids’ future education. In this respect, they are very fortunate to have women of this caliber.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the decision making-process, men seem to hold double standards. When it comes to equality in the workplace, again they seem to hold double standards. I judge that men have an effective capacity to promote and increase gender diversity, and for women, this is the gateway to further productivity in any economic sector.

Decreasing gender inequality is an important issue in agriculture. The act of equalizing the statuses of women and men is crucially significant in reducing hunger and lifting people out of poverty. Access to land is a clear example of gender inequality. Land legislation de jure is in place for women, but de facto is not always resultative, as it should be during the phase of the implementation. In many developing countries, there is an unsatisfied need to provide women with access to high-quality land.

Another thing, rural business loans are viewed as a key component in helping women concretize their innovative agriculture ideas. Currently, in the Republic of Kosovo, but also in the neighboring countries, it is sad to say that rural women find it hard to be in possession of valuable land property or financial resources. When applying for a rural loan to materialize their business ideas, they hardly manage to put any tangible asset up as collateral. As a consequence, the inconsiderate approach towards women’s resourceful ideas is being reflected unfavorably in the economy. Men’s role is crucial in this aspect. They should legally respect women’s rights to increase their ownership, usage, and control of tangible assets.

Women’s importance in agriculture and beyond

Women are also seen as a key force in the agricultural sector, specifically in the reduction of absolute poverty. It is a true perception that women tend to be more considerate than men towards poverty, malnutrition, and income inequality. Therefore, female economic empowerment and poverty reduction go hand in hand and women without a shadow of doubt can promote long-term orientation in tackling such serious issues. For example, at present, we face numerous collective social traps, such as uncontrolled urbanization, air pollution, overgrazing, climate change, etc., and women may potentially be a positive force in alleviating the intensity of the respective social traps.

Addressing gender inequality demands careful consideration. Avoiding the same old excuses of not addressing gender inequality is essential because it is having a great effect on people. Repeatedly, we hear about the notion that gender equality may be achieved through governments investing more in women. It is not merely monetarily investing in the short run, but it is more importantly about creating the environment where women can successfully thrive using freely their mental and physical capacities. Women solely should not be the subject of policy makers. Conversely, the act of creating a gender-fair environment should be the main focus of policy makers.

Women are naturally competent of making positive economic, social, and cultural impacts. Suppressing their talents and consequently bending their wills, and breaking their spirits is not morally right. So instead, let us, as young and ambitious agricultural professionals, step up our most reasonable endeavors in giving them the chance to change the world for the better.

It begins when you begin!