As we celebrate International Women’s Day today (8 March), I would like to extend my appreciation to all women across the globe and the unvetted contribution of women in the agriculture sector. Women play a critical role in all aspects of farming; from seeding, growing, harvesting to value-added processing, marketing, and selling to end-consumers. I have worked with women farmers, women business leaders and organizations in a broader sense to foster the development of Myanmar agriculture, which accounts for 70% of employment and major national income. Moreover, women farmers genuinely work hard to generate the income they need to feed their family’s education, health and wellbeing.
Despite the critical role they play in the economy, their community and their family, women smallholder farmers are often marginalized compared to men – they do not always have access to the same (and necessary) resources, and are often not in the position to make decisions in planning and financing their farm business.
The term, “တောင်သူ’, (Taungthu) - ‘farmer’ in English - is rarely used by women when referring to their occupation, despite women contributing significantly to farm management. The voices of women farmers must now be heard, and women have equal rights to speak with authority on the decisions that affect their lives.
The contributions made by women in the agriculture sector have thus far been left unnoticed and lack the recognition they deserve. So, it is time for the community, organizations, companies, and individuals to demonstrate their effective support and appreciation to women in agriculture as a productive workforce for economic development and food security.
Let’s applaud all women on this day and every day, and give our big heartful thanks for their contributions, who are among one of the most important stakeholders to bring food to our table. To get us there, the world needs women at every table where decisions are being made. It is time to and build an equal future. This is job for everyone – and for the benefit of everyone.
Since our inception, the Myanmar Agriculture Network (MAN) – Grow Asia’s Country Partnership in Myanmar – has been supporting our partners in adopting practices to make agricultural value chains more inclusive. We encourage this by amplifying the business case for women’s empowerment among our partners, actively brokering partnerships within the network, distilling and disseminating good practices across companies and sectors, and embedding gender-inclusive internal policies and practices. To learn more, visit www.man-growasia.org