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#128: CARIBBEAN: GIVING RURAL WOMEN A CHANCE (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
DEVELOPMENT-CARIBBEAN: GIVING RURAL WOMEN A CHANCE
PORT OF SPAIN, (Jul. 6) IPS - Caribbean women who have attained positions
of power are hoping to use their influence to help other women, who are
struggling just to feed themselves and their families.
Yesterday's meeting of the wives of the Caribbean leaders held in
Trinidad, alongside the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Heads of Government
summit, seems to have made a start in that direction.
The meeting was preparatory to the Hemispheric Conference of Wives of
Heads of State and Heads of Government of the Americas to be held in
Canada later this year.
"By working together, by joining forces, by forging a strong link and
working as a network, we will generate the power to make a difference, a
decided difference," said Oma Panday, chairperson of yesterday's meeting.
"Our intention is that we will set ourselves the mission of making that
difference through programs in support of women producers in rural
development in our region," she said.
The Caribbean Network of Rural Women Producers launched yesterday is
also aimed at doing just that.
The main goals of the Network will be to provide rural women with
access to credit for micro-business projects, to ensure that government
policies are sensitive to and supportive of the special needs of rural
women producers and to eliminate the gender bias in the ownership of land,
so that women will have the same opportunities as men to own property.
Panday said that the network would also seek to provide marketing
support for rural women producers and to offer training, research,
technical support and outreach services.
"We will only deliver if we are genuinely passionate about making a
meaningful difference in the lives of women across the Caribbean who are
truly the salt of the earth," she said.
"Our cardinal mission is the empowerment of the women who toil in rural
areas, and who have the capacity to make a meaningful contribution to the
well-being of their families, their communities and their countries," she
The women said that agriculture represents a vital social and economic
aspect of Caribbean life, particularly for women.
With the economic situation in many Caribbean countries on the decline,
more and more women are turning to agriculture.
In the northern Caribbean island of Jamaica, for example, the sector
employs more than 217,000 workers directly and some 650,000 indirectly.
Female workers account for between 22 and 24 percent of the workforce.
Unemployment in Jamaica now stands at 16.3 percent, but among women the
figure sits at more than 60 percent and among rural women it is even
"If people who have influence are able to get involved in that (the
development of rural women), I think its a great idea," said Marietta
Mitchell of Grenada. Her Guyana counterpart, Yvonne Hinds, said it
important for regional women to be empowered, and the Caribbean Network of
Rural Women would be a step in that direction.
Haiti, where 30 percent of women are involved in the agrarian reform
program, has supported the initiative. According to Geri Benoit-Preval,
wife of Pres. Rene Preval, it "represents a great opportunity for women."
With a per capita income of $250, Haiti is the poorest country in the
Next year, Haiti will stage the First Ladies Conference of the Americas
in September, and Benoit-Preval said the forum will provide an opportunity
"for more issues than agriculture to be discussed."
The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), one
of the sponsors of the meeting here, said research performed in the
Caribbean and Latin America supports the view that women are becoming a
major economic force in the agriculture sector.
"This meeting is therefore of critical importance in the development of
the regional sector and IICA's role in the support of same," said IICA's
Dr. Arlington Chesney.