[eng] Cecilia Gašić Boj - The transformative potential of women and the imminent innovation of the financial system

My reflection, our reflection for Simone R / R / J ©.

When in 1994 I carried out the study “La Mujer Campesina y los programas de apoyo en Chile” [Women farmers and support programs in Chile] (unpublished), I felt extremely liberal in my thinking, which meant that the consultant that had commissioned the study did not let me write the main conclusion that I had: credits for productive investment had to be given to women.

I kept that study carefully on paper for many years, until a few days ago I reviewed it again, regarding the current pandemic situation of millions of women in rural and urban areas.

Prior to this study, during 1992, the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture received support from FAO to review its policies, programs and projects aimed at small-scale agriculture, including those aimed at rural women. The observations derived from this review of the contents and objectives of the family development area of the Technological Transfer Program of the Agricultural Development Institute (Indap) (an institution of the Ministry of Agriculture) were that it was not clear what were the roles of women farmers in their homes and what was its importance. They were recognized only in domestic roles, but not those as producer and income generator. The work in the feminine spaces of production in the farm, orchard and raising of small animals, as well as, in the farm and in the larger exploitation of the property, did not identify her as a part-time worker or as a producer of food of agricultural origin and livestock for income generation.

This program, in which the family development area was inserted as an annex, had an overly productive focus without considering other aspects of interest to women in terms of their reproductive role. Women participated in the program as the beneficiary's wives and had to sign an entry document together with their husbands. The decision to enter the program was made by their husbands. If the married or cohabiting woman wanted to be a beneficiary, she could not do so if her husband did not want to. Widowed women could participate if they had male family labor.

This clearly shows the lack of knowledge of the productive and family system, since rural women are mainly responsible for the production of food for the household members. And, when they do not have access to land, which is often the case, they are not recognized as having the right to credit, participation in organizations, training or extension services. This because they do not have tangible guarantees for credit or because they do not have the time or it is frowned upon for them to leave the home environment or because they do not have the capacity due to lack of support in the execution of household chores, which takes time away from their dedication to other activities of interest.

In other words, the program accentuated existing problems. The reality was ignored: for women, work and family are always linked and a large part of their work is not remunerated monetarily, even when it is productive. This occurs not only in rural areas, but also in urban areas, within the framework of micro and medium-sized family businesses.

Therefore, this 1994 study reflected the integral concern that women have: the care and protection of the home and its environment.

The problems and proposals considered as priorities by some women in rural communities were: to generate sources of employment by supporting microenterprises, improve information on subsidies, build housing, activate neighborhood councils, intensively use the infrastructure of schools to develop cultural and sports activities, repair a municipal vehicle for transporting the sick, build a roofed gymnasium and set up a recreation area and train women in certain specialties, among other demands in some areas, which was to have basic services, where these were precarious or non-existent, for example, access to drinking water.

These proposals are probably the same ones that we see today that are required in different areas, not only considering the pre-Covid-19 situation in our country, other countries in the region or in the world, but even more so, taking into account the post-Covid reality.

It is clear that rural women not only carry out activities related to food production and food security, but also perform all household tasks. In both rural and urban areas, women tend to work 16 hours a day and more. However, in rural areas most of their productive work is unpaid.

It is now known that in very poor households headed by women, the available resources are dedicated to better nutrition and education of their children, as we can even see in the statements of Chilean or immigrant women living in camps in Chile, which is not the case in equally poor households headed by men. Thus, there is a direct link between women's access to and control over resources and the improvement of family nutrition and food security.

Women's economic autonomy, even today, is limited by the existing disparity in terms of access to economic resources, including credit and land, preventing them from ensuring a better standard of living for themselves and for those who depend on them. This because they have accumulated less wealth and therefore do not have sufficient guarantees to be eligible for credit or other monetary support.

Economic crises, structural adjustment programs, armed conflicts, droughts, increasing male migration for employment, the dissolution of marriages and the instability of cohabitation have generated an unprecedented growth in the number of female heads of household, who have found themselves solely responsible for the survival of their families and the agricultural production of the family's productive unit. A woman alone has to provide for the economic sustenance of the family and carry out all domestic activities, whether she lives in rural or urban areas.

I thought at the time (1994), wouldn't it have been a good measure to give credit to women, even though they could not establish guarantees? or to give women autonomy and give them credit, even though the husband did not want to or did not have the desire to progress with a certain level of risk?

Today, I believe with certainty that it would have been and would be an excellent measure and the best investment that a country or a region could make. If the financial system had taken the risk and trusted and believed in the transformative potential of women, the situation in the world would be radically different.

Time proved me right: loans for productive investment should have been given to women and thus set an innovative precedent. Women present a better financial behavior according to the report on gender in the Chilean financial system (Financial Market Commission, 2020).

Related data:

Recent publications have shown that the pandemic has had an impact on the food system, from food production to food consumption, and its outcomes, especially in terms of food security and social welfare. In Latin America and the Caribbean, poverty and extreme poverty are higher in rural areas, but so is informal employment and low access to social safety nets, which generates a situation of great vulnerability. Rural poverty is associated with the existence of a large contingent of small agricultural producers with low productivity, little land, low quality and limited access to public goods. Family farming accounts for more than 90% of the region's agricultural holdings, but only 23% of agricultural land ownership. Own-account agricultural workers and their unpaid family members have the lowest level of income of the different categories of labor insertion in rural areas (ECLAC, 2020).

In the latest ECLAC publication (No. 9, February 10, 2021), they indicate that, in order to ensure women's access to support instruments and financing mechanisms, they propose that the region should encourage multilateral banks and, in particular, development banks to establish funds, credit lines, subsidies, products and services specifically for women, especially for entrepreneurs in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). On the other hand, they recommend that, when designing policies for the economic reactivation of the region, it is necessary to address care in a way that is not necessarily conceptualized as a social expense, but rather, considered from the perspective of investment. This is an investment in terms of present and future capabilities, as well as the generation of quality employment, which is also a mechanism for reactivating economies.

* Cecilia Valeria Gašić Boj
I am a happy woman, mother of Florencia and Diego. I have a beautiful family and I had strong, independent and loving grandmothers. I was a champion swimmer, record holder in Chile. Liceo Manuel de Salas and Universidad de Chile, hosted my personal and professional formation. Agronomist engineer, nature lover. I am a regional expert for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Land Degradation Neutrality Program of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. RestauraChile™ is currently our challenge.

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