On the occasion of this year’s International Day of Rural Women, we are glad to share a message from Tamisha Lee, President of Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers and a member of the WFO Women Committee.

15 October is International Day of Rural Women. The spotlight is on ‘Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All’. Established by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18 December 2007, this international day recognises “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”Rural women who participate in agriculture are celebrated on this day, recognising resilience, and the important role in supporting not only the Jamaican economy but as nurturers of the land and its people.

On this day, the Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers, therefore, calls for state and private partners to ramp up structural supports and investment in rural women and girls in agriculture. We put the gaze on agriculture and its value chain, which is supportive of women producers and takes into account the unique position of women and girls. This also includes our education, training and participation in food sovereignty. Women food producers must be enabled with the inputs to promote sustainable food systems, inclusive of agri-tech centres, which will facilitate the emergent and expanding linkages such as agri-tourism, food processing, health and wellness, climate-smart agri-practices and land conservation, thus helping us to align with 21st-century practices. Female producers recognise and acknowledge the importance of taking care of the land and connecting with nature for our own spiritual, emotional and physical well-being, and we, therefore, bring an important balance to the agriculture value chain and environmental sustainability. To advance economically, women’s cooperatives are essential to developing sustainable and progressive food systems. Women must be connected to markets and have equal opportunity to negotiate our products and prices so that unfair commercial practices which currently exist are addressed, as well as being able to represent our interests.

We also remind rural women to prioritise mental and physical health such that we can continue being productive and enjoy the fruits of our labour. We know that COVID-19 has taken a toll on society with women and girls experiencing compounded economic impacts due to the pandemic deepening pre-existing inequalities, according to the United Nations 2020 report on the impact of COVID-19 on women. As women, we must continue to uplift each other and demonstrate our true strength. We also invite our men and boys to contribute to elevating women in similar ways by acknowledging and respecting the role and value of women in general. We need men in the movement so that we can overcome and make Jamaica a better place. Let us, therefore, celebrate our rural women on this day and beyond as natural producers, where we multiply whatever is given to us as agricultural producers in our own right, contributing to sustainable futures.

Happy International Day of Rural Women 2021!

Tamisha Lee, JP
Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers