Gender equality, a vital demand for development

Manuel Otero, Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)

The longstanding demand for women’s rights that the world commemorates on 8 March has multiple reasons and is imbued with great meaning and sense.

The claim arises from a strict notion of justice, and also because as more women participate and lead in production, the economy, institutional life, research and technical assistance, it will guarantee an increase in the growth dynamic and contribute to environmental and social sustainability in all areas.

It is, furthermore, a priority demand in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, a roadmap that has sought to put the spotlight on people, the planet, prosperity, peace and cooperation, to progress towards a new paradigm of development, including the challenge of attaining “gender equality and empowerment for women and girls.”

This scenario demands that gender parity be a transversal part of every action undertaken. Constructing that parity requires transformations in terms of education, access to opportunities, political participation, redefining institutional strategies, and generating new decision-making spaces, favoring the construction of inclusive environments in both urban and rural settings.

Giving greater visibility to the difference in opportunities for men and women, and understanding their regional particularities, leads to proposals of more effective actions.

For example, for many women, agricultural work is considered an extension of housework, and their contribution to farming in rural areas is under-registered, despite the fact that 43% of the global population working in agriculture are women, who perform multiple roles and work extremely long hours.

Of the 58 million rural women who live in Latin America and the Caribbean, 17 million are registered as economically active and only 4.5 million are considered farmers. They are responsible for the production of 51% of the food in the region but despite this, 40% of them do not have their own income, only 10% have access to credit and just 5% access technical assistance programs.

Furthermore, it is important to highlight the fact that global emergencies aggravate gender inequalities even further.

This is why the development of gender-sensitive initiatives takes on even greater urgency in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has deepened problems of gender transversalization in policies and programs, while labor market data shows that the recovery is moving faster in posts occupied by men than in those areas where women work.

Not only has the pandemic paused progress towards gender parity, but it has also generated new barriers for women, the burden of unpaid work, additional care activities and a loss of income and employment, thus increasing the gender gap in the workforce.

It is therefore essential that recovery strategies consider how these inequalities have worsened and that we reverse this reality by adopting a gender perspective.

We must take into account the power that internet access and information have in benefiting women’s re-entry into the labor market. New technologies encourage the spread of knowledge and reduce social distances, creating a scenario of renewed challenges and opportunities to empower women.

On a day of commemoration and awareness-raising regarding the importance of women’s equity and rights, it is time to take on full responsibility to carry forward an agenda in favor of full inclusion and translate this into effective policies.

Access to land and property, along with women’s social and productive inclusion, will result in more even gender conditions that will make it possible to attain all the necessary initiatives to build a better society in Latin America and the Caribbean, with an impact on the substantial equality that we seek.

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