IFUW sponsored a parallel event on Rural Women of the Americas: Canada, Latin America and USA at the Fifty-Six Session of the commission on the Status of Women. Polly Woodard, IFUW UN Representative served as the moderator. Polly grew up on a sheep farm in Ohio, USA.
A packed room showed that nearly 1/3 of those in attendance had grandparents who farmed, approximately 10% had parents who farmed and only 4 in the audience were current farmers.
Panelists included Florine Swanson, President of Women Graduates-USA and a farmer in Iowa, USA. Robynne Anderson, UN Rep. for the World Farmers Organization and the daughter of a member of the Canadian Association of University Women. Robynne grew up on a grain farm in Canada. Other speakers included Rochelle Roca-Hachem, Program Specialist for Culture of UNESCO; Starry Kruegar, Executive Director for Rural Development Leadership Network; Lucero Fuentes, Education of Rural Women and Girls in Mexico and Robert Carlson, President, World Farmers Organization based in Rome, Italy. Robert is from North Dakota, USA, and his wife grew up on a dairy farm.Both Florine and Robynne spoke about their experiences growing up on family farms and the production of agriculture in the USA and Canada that provides for others throughout the world. Only 2 percent of the population in the USA is currently farming. This is in contrast to 80% of the population who are in farming in Africa, of which 7/8ths are women.
UNESCO works in rural communities on maintaining the cultural diversity by holding festivals and craft fairs as a means of retraining the vitality of the towns. Rochelle talked about the need to provide primary education, literacy, teacher training, use of the radio for communication, and economic development in rural areas.
Starry spoke about the work of the Rural Development Leadership Network in working with people of poverty in the United States. Their efforts have helped women get college degrees. Participants do field projects, have peer exchanges, develop leadership and writing skills. “They validate people where they are now.”
Lucero Fuentes talked about how few women can participate in education without economic assistance. Many of the men go to the USA to work and many of the rural women are going into the cities and towns. Social workers provide training in retail work, computers, food production, and sewing.
The World Farmers Organization is working with women in agriculture in developing countries to teach them marketing, accounting and production skills. When the women succeed, their husband’s become interested in learning too. WFO will also be a presence in Rio+20 in June.
President, Women Graduates-USA