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AEIDL showcases the role of women in driving rural development

Nov 23, 2023 | News

On Wednesday 22 November, in line with its commitments to the Rural Pact, the European Economic and Social Committee organised a thematic debate on gender equality and youth in rural areas. This was organised by its Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment (NAT) as part of their events following up the EU Gender Equality Week.

AEIDL’s expert Blanca Casares was invited to present AEIDL work in this matter, which includes the GRASS CEILING research project, where Blanca leads the Work Package on Policy Recommendations.

Women empower rural areas

Blanca showcased in her presentation a dozen women that were involved in previous projects. They are cork and biodiversity experts, transhumant livestock farmers, a master cheesemaker, a biologist, rural doctors, book writers, a traditional artist, poetess, consultant, veterinarian, blogger, net-maker of fishing boats, designer, a scientist, teachers…

“They live in rural areas, they work for rural areas, they are examples of what needs to be supported”, Blanca said.

Women in rural areas of the EU make up below 50% of the total rural population, they represent 45% of the economically active population, and about 40% of them work on family farms. The rate of self-employed women in rural areas is about 38%. Their importance in rural economy is even greater, since their participation through informal rural economy is not statistically recognised.

Women in EU rural policies

The Gender Equality Strategy presents policy objectives and actions to make significant progress by 2025 towards a gender-equal Europe. The Regulation of the current Common Agricultural Policy national Strategic Plans  mentions that the Managing Authority in each country shall involve bodies promoting equality between men and women and try to reach out as much as possible to all potential beneficiaries.

Furthermore, there is no mention of women in the Farm to Fork Strategy within the EU Green Deal. The EU long-term vision for rural areas by 2040 says young women are more likely to leave rural regions than young men. Women represent a significant driving force for prosperity and social inclusion in rural areas, notably through entrepreneurship. The 8th Cohesion Report also considers the gender dimension as half of EU regions will be demographically declining by 2040.

AEIDL findings on rural women

AEIDL has a growing portfolio of expertise in the gender dimension of innovative local development. Recent policy briefs consider “Women in Rural Development: Integrating a gender dimension into policies for rural areas in Europe” as well as “The role of women in rural development and innovation or Women for a sustainable future of European rural areas”.

The challenges facing rural women differ considerably by individual socio-demographic characteristics such as age, education and country of residence.

Gender segregation of labour markets is still a fact with lower employment and higher unemployment rates for women. Women’s labour market position is also more precarious due to a larger part being part-time work or seasonal workers.

The still prevailing masculine culture of politics plays an important role in constraining their political participation and decision-making.

There is a clear lack of services in rural areas compared to urban areas. And specifically, is relevant for women the lack of schools, care centres, medical specialties, etc.

As regards to access to land, the legacy of ages-old inheritance laws has led to the majority of farms today being mostly owned by men in most countries and regions.

Furthermore, there are few statistics available segregated by gender as well as region as well as a lack of more comparative studies on rural women across Europe. This leads to insufficient implementation of the EU gender policies.

However, there are a lot of opportunities and actions to be undertaken through public support and public-private agreements such as improving the provision of infrastructure and services in rural areas, promote generational renewal,  rural women’s innovation and entrepreneurship, facilitate access to credit and reduce taxes, specific support in rural advisory services and promoting the visibility and empowerment of rural women.

What is community-led innovation?

Community-led innovation means any new and creative process, service or product that emerges in a local territory as a result of a participatory process involving local communities and actors in order to seize new opportunities or address local challenges.

It offers opportunities to encourage positive change and generate local socio-economic and environmental welfare. You can find here a briefing of what we mean by community-led local innovation.

In 2022, AEIDL launched the European Local Innovation Forum (ELIF) to help drive a pan-European conversation about local innovation, enhance action on the ground, and put them on the EU agenda.  We invite you to subscribe to the ELIF mailing list so you can receive invites for our online seminars with key decision makers, experts and local practitioners and our policy briefs.

Contributing to the Rural Pact and GRASS CEILING

Furthermore, Blanca concluded,  as part of GRASS CEILING, AEIDL and COPA-COGECA run the European Policy Forum for women-led innovation in agriculture and rural areas and are the coordinators of the EU Rural Pact Community Group on Women in Rural Areas. Anyone interested can join and help bring ideas and good practices to improve the gender dimension of EU rural policies by subscribing here.