Rural Women Gather to Influence National Policy in Colombia

Rural women are key to Colombia’s economic and social development. Rural women and men from our IMPACT project will bring this message to a consultation tomorrow with policy makers tasked with shaping the government’s new national public policy on gender equality for rural women.

“This consultation is a win-win proposition for rural women and the government,” says CDF Canada country manager Lydia Phillips. “Women have a window of opportunity to voice their concerns and propose solutions at the behest of receptive policymakers seeking ways to address the myriad of issues facing rural women.

Rural co-operatives are a key part of the Colombian government’s strategy to build peace in communities affected by the armed conflict that gripped Colombia for over 50 years. While rural communities have made the transition to producing legal crops such as cacao, coffee, fruits and vegetables, small producers lack the methods and means to compete successfully in the marketplace. Women must cope with raising the family and managing the household, and have limited options for paid work, land ownership, self expression and personal development.

With our local partner, Gestando, we’re working with communities in ten departments (provinces) of Colombia to equip women and their families with tools to develop enterprises, create jobs and open opportunities to create prosperity through co-operative enterprises and gender equality.

Paula Andrea Bernal, leader of a gender equality initiative at her cocoa co-op, hopes this public consultation will provide her with new information and resources, as well as fresh ideas she can share to continue empowering the women in her community.

She believes that initiatives that support women in agricultural entrepreneurship do more than just bolster their economic power and influence. “The strongest impact of this type of support,” Ms. Bernal explains, “is that we used to think that as women, we couldn’t do much. Now we feel stronger, more confident, but most importantly, we love and value ourselves.” She says this positive mindset allows them to take on challenges and seek further opportunities to grow their co-ops, which in turn, benefits their families and communities.

Ms. Bernal will be displaying her co-op’s jewelry made from cocoa pods at a trade fair of rural women’s coffee, chocolate, fruits, cheese and other products. The co-op has given many women in their community their very first paid jobs.

Farmer leaders in gender equality from our IMPACT project will lead a workshop on how the national protocol for support to women victims of violence is working in rural communities. Policymakers will view photos and videos made by women and men farmers showing the strides they are making bringing gender equality to their communities.

Representatives from the National Rural Women’s Program and the National Round Table for Policy Influence of Rural Women in Colombia, and academic experts on women and land rights are also participating in the consultation.

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