United Nations celebrates the International Rural Women’s Day every October 15th
This morning, the BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF) has hosted an event in Madrid on the occasion of celebrating the International Rural Women’s Day, to tackle the challenges shared by rural women in Spain and Latin America. Laura Fernández Lord, Head of Women Empowerment, assured that “in many places in the world, they are invisible workers.”
“Their activity is not considered ‘productive’, rather, an ‘aid’, a complement. They mostly work in family farms without receiving anything in return”, she added during her welcome speech. However, she said that “when rural women are given the same access to productive resources, services and economic opportunities as men, agricultural production increases, and result in immediate social and economic progress.”
This is why the BBVA Microfinance Foundation offers financial services to 145,000 female rural entrepreneurs, aside from technical assistance, so they could expand their businesses. This kind of support has been very important for Sandra Mendoza, a coffee-grower from Colombia, who has travelled to Madrid to share her story. “I set out to become the first woman to preside the coffee-grower committee in my community and I achieved it. There are 11 men and I’m the only woman”, she said.
“I set out to become the first woman to preside the coffee-grower committee in my community and I achieved it”
The nearest town is more than half an hour away from where she lives, and the nearest city, six hours away. Despite of all this, thanks to the technology developed by the BBVA Microfinance Foundation, she is able to manage her finances from home. “Being able to access my account using the mobile app, saves me a lot of time because I live far away from any financial institution. Knowing how much money I have, or being able to repay my loans this way, boosts my independence”, pointed out Sandra, who has gotten used to go through all around her land and search for the exact spot where she could find signal.
According to UN Women, a large proportion of the 3.4 billion unconnected people live in rural areas, and are mostly women with few resources and who possess very basic educational training.
“Rural women’s access to new technologies lessen their isolation, improving social and economic cohesion. Despite the important advances in this area, there still remain a digital gap between rural and urban areas”, confirmed Ignacio Trueba, special representative of the FAO in Spain, during his closing speech.
In Latin America, 35% of the population still doesn’t have access to the Internet, especially in rural areas, while in Spain, the main concern is focused on the quality of the connection, given that there are still 5 million people in the country who have no Internet, or who have low-quality connection, according to the Minister of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda.
Manuela Gómez is one of the entrepreneurs benefitted by technology in her day to day work. She has lived all her life in the Castilla la Mancha countryside and has inherited a livestock farming business from her family. Together with her sister, she co-owns Quesos Reino, a company that makes cheese from sheep’s milk. She guarantees that that internet is an ally that her parents weren’t able to use. “I can find information about new processes or techniques to be applied in my work, or to find online solutions to whatever problem comes up”, claims Manuela, an associate of the Federation of Rural Women’s Associations (FADEMUR), in a conversation with Sandra Mendoza and moderator Bárbara Villar, technical secretary of FAO’s Parliamentary Front Against Hunger for Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to Manuela, she and her sister have been “lucky” because despite being a minority, they’ve never felt discriminated because of their gender. Even then, they share that “farming is still a man’s world”, and that the biggest obstacle they have to face is being able to achieve a work-life balance. In Spain, and according to the latest data from the Minister of the Environment, rural women are in charge of 80% of household chores, a reality that is also being experienced by the rural women in Latin America.
“Empowering women contributes to solving problems of mankind, as well as to the achievement of the United Nations’ SDG”
FAO’s special representative in Spain said that they are necessary to achieve a better world: “Empowering women contributes to solving problems of mankind, as well as to the achievement of the United Nations’ SDG.”