Senwes Scenario Augustus / September 2015 - Page 42

••• ••• FUT UR U RE E FO OC CUS THE VOICE OF WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE – THE MISSING LINK JENNY MATHEWS I have participated in organised agriculture for over ten years now and I am often astounded by the absence of women in these circles. Why is it, I wonder, that although there are increasingly more women actively farming and producing food - and there is a huge percentage of farmers’ wives who play a critical supporting role in the farming operations of their husbands - that the voice of women in this sector is largely silent? Don’t get me wrong, I am no fanatical woman’s libber, but I am all for recognition of all the stakeholders in the sector - and I believe that a sector which does not hear enough women’s voices is missing something special. Generally speaking, women are the caregivers in the home, often dealing with the consequences of policies designed in the corridors of power where few women have participated in the decision-making processes around the board 40 RAISE YOUR WORDS NOT YOUR VOICE. IT IS THE RAIN THAT MAKES FLOWERS GROW, NOT THE THUNDER – RUMI room tables. So why not get involved? One thing I can say from personal experience is that the silence from women cannot be blamed on the leaders in the sector. The men I have had dealings with over the past decade have shown nothing but appreciation and respect for the contribution that I have been able to make. I have felt welcome to express my opinions - even if it has meant that we have had to disagree on issues. I have never pretended that I could debate the finer points of calibrating a planter, but I too ‘feel’ the seasons in the fields, in the office, in my household and on my skin equally as much as any other farmer does. So I have to ask the question: Why are women apparently content to stay home rather than become actively involved in organised agriculture? It is only by participating in the meetings and debates that we can ensure that issues which concern us are addressed; from the quality of the food on the table to the viability of planting maize next season, to the well-being of the farm workers or even the image of the farmers in public spaces and social media platforms - or the amount of misinformation being Augustu u s/S S epte e mberr 2 015 5 • SENWES Scenario stuffed down the public’s throats about farmers and the way they run their operations and care for their livestock… Surely as women we should be more prepared to actively participate in different forums and raise our voices? I do not buy into the image that women in agriculture are apathetic. On the contrary, I am constantly blown away by the number of dynamic, go-getting women in agriculture who bring a stunning wide array of talent, determination and brilliance to the sector as each one makes her industrious contribution, whether it is keeping the farm accounts, managing aspects of the farming operations or even driving their own creative businesses in agriculture. THE IN NVIS SIB B L E WO M A N While it is true that for too long women in agriculture have been invisible to policy makers, financing institutions and even researchers, it is also true that they have often even been invisible to themselves. They have identified themselves with statements such as ‘I don’t work’ or ‘I’m just a farmer’s wife,’ and have completely underplayed the significance of their role in the sector. Around the world things