Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) joins in the celebration of the International Women’s Day. The farmer-led network calls state institutions and the public to give special attention to the economic and social rights of women, particularly the right to food.
Various studies have pointed out that safeguarding women’s rights and ensuring gender equality in agricultural production are precursors to food security. The Asian Rural Women’s Coalition (ARWC) estimated that women make up 43% of agricultural labour. In the Southeast Asia region alone, about 70% of employed women are agricultural workers, accounting for the labor from production to marketing. However, women’s role in food production remains either unrecognized or unequally recognized in relation to their male counterparts.
Role of MASIPAG Women
MASIPAG remains a model for promoting rural women’s rights. One of the landmark achievements of the network is contributing to the development of women leadership and honing their role for the advancement of Sustainable Agriculture.
An evaluation study of the program in Dao, Iloilo revealed that women participating in the programs of the network were empowered actors in rural development. Key factors attribute this empowerment to women’s capacity building, gender training and the reintroduction of the Bayanihan concept to the community, among others.
Today, MASIPAG women are either active members or leaders in their respective networks and organizations. These women are active in seed banking and breeding, farm diversification, processing, organic certification and marketing.
Threats to rural women
Despite these developments, women are heavily affected by structural problems, especially in the context of agriculture.
A study by the United Nations-Food and Agricultural Organization (UN FAO) points out the main reason for food insecurity and malnutrition is the existence and the dominance of multinational corporations.
“In the Philippines, transnational corporations and IRRI capitalize on failed practices and prioritize profit over welfare putting farmers, especially rural women, at a very high risk,” said Anita Morales, MASIPAG member and executive director of METSA Foundation, a Davao-based NGO.
The Green Revolution model espoused by IRRI has placed much stress on increasing yield, and thereby displacing food diversification, increased pesticide and chemical use, and is capital intensive. Among those worst hit by this supposed innovation are women, as Green Revolution exacerbated problems on food availability, accessibility and safety affected their families. In effect, IRRI dilutes and dissolves traditional and indigenous food systems and knowledge – one of rural women’s foremost contribution to the society.
Further, the introduction of Golden Rice by PhilRice poses a great threat to the safety of the Filipino public. Stop Golden Rice Network (SGRN) asserts that Golden Rice will displace traditional food and eating habit and replace it with a failed and useless product backed by large agrochemical companies. This, amidst the worsening state of land grabbing, liberalization of agricultural products as well as the increase in corporate control in our food systems, leaves rural women and children at so much disadvantage.
These threats are the reason why MASIPAG, along with other members of the RESIST Network, launches its “Going beyond more lies: Shut down IRRI” this March, a month long regional campaign that will feature 6 days of protest ending with a national mobilization on April 3, IRRI’s day of foundation.
With this, MASIPAG further affirm its call this IWD 2020: life over profit!
“Our network’s mission has always been to improve the quality of life of resource-poor farmers. And at the heart of this mission are rural women,” said Cris Panerio, National Coordinator of MASIPAG.