An article was prepared within the framework of UN Women Project “Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment through Decentralization Reform of Ukraine”
The Public Association "Rural Women's Business Network" recently signed a memorandum with the UN Women Project “Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment through Decentralization Reform of Ukraine” funded by the Government of Canada, under which the Association will provide specialized assistance to women from 13 communities and four regions: Volyn, Chernivtsi, Kherson and Sumy.
As worldwide, a third of women in Ukraine live in rural areas. To this day, not all women living in villages have consistent access to water, quality health care and the Internet. Many processes are non-mechanized and require hard physical labor. However, the situation of women farmers is gradually changing, and their activities are becoming a full-fledged business with prospects for development. “The Rural Women's Business Network” has been systematically operating for over decade, but formally merged a few years ago. The Association brings together women farmers from all over Ukraine to share experience, study, improve their skills, form business plans and familiarize themselves with changes in legislation. One of the directions of this Public Association is overcoming stereotypes and combating discrimination against rural women. We talked about this and many other things with Yaroslava Sorokopud, chairman of the board of the Public Association "Rural Women's Business Network", and Sofia Burtak, director.
Yaroslava Sorokopud talks about current issues: “The information space is not so accessible for women farmers. Not everyone has access to the Internet, and often the only channel of communication can be radio, and women themselves are engaged in their households 24/7. Often women farmers combine three or four social roles. They must be mothers, farmers and work in their main job, such as school or shop.”
Against the background of such challenges, the idea arose of an annual Forum of Women Farmers, which would work to raise women's awareness of their rights, new technologies and opportunities.
Yaroslava talks about the idea of the Forum: “The Forum of Ukrainian Women Farmers is the Ukrainian-Canadian project ‘Development of the Dairy Business in Ukraine’ and ‘The Ukrainian Fruit and Vegetable Business Development Project’ (UHBDP), which have joined forces to increase competitiveness and competence of women farmers.
But not all rural women are involved in innovative processes; women are still busy with survival and providing for their families. Only every sixth person engaged in agriculture is officially employed. That is, women and men grow and sell agricultural products independently of each other, often without the opportunity to advantage from the benefits and subsidies of official workers. Here, the ‘Rural Women's Business Network’ can provide expert assistance and assessment, as well as trainings for women who want to become entrepreneurs and move their work into the legal field.
According to Sofia Burtak: “Our network is a community. The organization was created for communication and exchange of experience between women. Research we have conducted with rural women has shown that access to resources is a problem. Women have less access to productive resources in their daily work. This applies to all rural women, as they must engage in both productive and reproductive labor, often with ancillary rural production. For the whole family to feel good, they need access to production resources such as harvesters, mechanized equipment. This is where the problem of gender imbalance is hidden, since only 35% of adult women and 19% of young women have access to such resources. "
Ms. Sofia gives an example of how such an imbalance looks in real life: “A man bought a potato planter to plant potatoes, this process is mechanized. But the man did not buy a potato harvester. So, his wife, mother of ten children, together with other women, is forced to pick potatoes by hand because it is considered a woman's work. "
According to our interlocutors, the gender division of labor is a thing of the past: “Can a man milk a cow? - Yes, he can. Can a woman drive a tractor and harvester? - Yes, she can. Both women and men can learn to use drones and essential software."
If you count the hours of work that could be mechanized and optimized, it turns out that time will be freed up for education, business and your own activities. A study by the ‘Rural Women's Business Network’ and ‘Dairy Farmers’ found that labor mechanization affects farmers' sense of happiness. That is, the more mechanized the work and the more time people have for leisure, the happier they feel.
An article was prepared within the framework of UN Women Project “Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment through Decentralization Reform of Ukraine” funded by the Government of Canada.
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women