Thursday, October 16, 2014

BAD Inequality: EnGendering a Resilient Future

Anti Faustina, wearing her teacher hat
I've been reading a lot about women lately - books on development paradigms; papers on gender dimensions in agriculture; twitter chats on women farmers. It is all for my thesis, so I'm delving a bit into the archives and seeing how the discourse has changed over the last 30 or 40 years. Perhaps not so surprisingly, a lot of what is in those papers, books, and the like, seems to stand the test of time (which is not really a good thing...). Themes around education, household labour, rights and resouce surface time after time. When it comes down to it, we're talking about inequality.

Before we get too deep, why am I writing about this? Well, today is an interesting day. For one, it happens to be Blog Action Day (or B.A.D), an effort in its eighth year to unite around a globally important issue - this time 'inequality' - and, well, communicate about it! Coincidentally, it is also the 35th World Food Day, which is focused on the sustainability of family farming. And if you just couldn't get enough, yesterday marked the eighth observance of International Day of Rural Women. Three different topics, but they actually have pretty strong ties.

Now that we've gotten all that out of the way, let's go back to today's blog action topic. The dictionary definition of inequality brings up charged issues like social disparity and injustice, as well as rather neutral things like uneveness and variableness. Gender issues in agriculture and rural development have largely been framed as a social disparity concern - most recently coined the 'gender gap'. The statistics paint a pretty bleak picture of rural women in developing countries (who are primarily family farmers). Across the board, women have a much lower literacy rate and enrolment in schools. It is not common for women to inherit land, and what they do have is smaller in size than their male counterparts. Demands on time is a particularly facinating topic, because much of what a female farmer does is not compensated housework (though, this comparison of men and women in the Zimbabwe's wet season is pretty telling...).

Anti Aso, our spritely veg farmer
Did I mention that I spent the better part of this summer speaking to women farmers in Ghana? Well, I was asking these wonderful ladies about how they've dealt with past environmental shocks, what most influences the "success" of a year, and how future climate change (in not so many words) could impact their lives. The literature depicts much of the same story we've already heard, with the addition of a mild plot twist starring climate change as the villain. However, one of the things I was really struck by was the many ways in which these women are already so resilient in the face of change. Many have started side businesses for multiple income sources. Many acknowledged adjusting the crops, timing, and location in response to variability of weather within a year. And a few after my own heart were passionate about building the health of their soil, limiting the amount of chemicals, and maintaining the long-term health of her family and the land.

In concluding this post for Blog Action Day on inequality, I have to note that this entire post (and several others) was dedicated to discussing women. In doing so, though, I have created another inequality. Men often get side-lined from the gender dialogue, and perhaps that is fair. But I would like to leave you with a thought; 'gender' is about the ways in which both men and women engage in a system, their roles, their challenges. At the end of the day, we are all human, all have a role to play. I wonder how much further we entrench the division between men and women by discussing it as such. That said, we have made gains by certain metrics, and there is great optimism, if we can find the most meaninful ways to join forces - to ensure a just and liveable world, that will continue for generations to come.

Read Previous B.A.D. Posts
BAD 2011: At What Cost?
BAD 2010: Water

1 comment:

Lesley McDade said...

Inequality is something you do to yourself via your own subjectivity;
Unequal is something that others do to you via their subjectivity;
Be Equal - be objective

Lesley McDade