March 8, 2012
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Chair of the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food, and Social Justice and Rural Development, calls for more investments and public-private partnerships directed at empowering women in the agricultural sector.
“Experience across different sectors and even different countries shows that when you empower a woman with economic opportunity, you empower not only an individual but also a family and a community,” Pangilinan says. “Sadly, experience has also shown that women in agriculture, especially here in the Philippines, have been largely neglected for decades.”
Data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that roughly a third of the agricultural sector in the Philippines is powered by women, although their “contribution to food production and rural economy remains undervalued if not invisible.” The FAO also points out that many women in the rural economy are “landless workers, traders of agricultural and fishery products, and engaged in micro-manufacturing enterprises.” Many are also active in planting, weeding, caring for crops, and harvesting in farms and rice fields.
“It is sad and unjust how government has largely failed to address the needs of a third of our agriculture and fisheries sector. Imagine what we can achieve if we give women not only access to jobs and livelihood opportunities in the rural areas, but also training and capacity-building to improve their knowledge and skills. We will, in effect, give them the power to make more informed decisions and also empower them to invest in their children’s education and future.”
“The multiplier effect will be tremendous,” Pangilinan points out.
He cites experience from the micro-finance sector, which shows a high repayment rate (99.44% for CARD-MRI, for instance) among “nanays” in communities. Success stories have shown women evolving from struggling landless workers to thriving entrepreneurs.
“All these women need is a strong support structure around which they can increase their income and empower their families and communities. If we put our heads together and reimagine the possibilities, there is much that we can do to empower women in the agricultural sector.”
“We can’t keep using the same old paradigms and the same old excuses. If we are serious about turning our rural economy around, then we had better start paying attention to the women who help keep this economy running,” Pangilinan emphasizes.
Pangilinan, who in January 2012 launched “Sagip Saka”, an advocacy aimed at improving incomes of farmers and fisherfolk while modernizing the agricultural sector, also stresses the importance of uplifting the agriculture and fisheries sector, which directly and indirectly accounts for at least 60% of the Philippine economy.
“Raising the incomes of our farmers and fisherfolk is key to improving their quality of life and ensuring sustainable agricultural practices,” Pangilinan says. “When sixty percent of our population enjoys a viable livelihood and more disposable income, this will have a direct impact on many of our other sectors and industries.”
He adds, “The direct participation of women in agricultural enterprises will mean added income for them and greater productivity for the sector as a whole.”
“Ensuring the sustainability of our agricultural sector will be key to achieving developed-nation status in 15 years.”
Image Source: Beyondbrics