Women comprise 43% of the world’s agricultural labor force and help contribute to 80% of the agricultural production within Africa. It is quite amazing how women in Africa are able to take over 50% of their income and reinvest it back into their families in various ways. My interest in women and farming started in Benin, West Africa with a women’s farming group in my village, Wassa-Tobre. I learned a lot from the women of Tobre, their goals for the group and their individual families, the challenges they faced in the community and within the patriarchal society of Benin. I experienced first hand their success of yielding new crops, applying for a governmental grant and being able to spread their new knowledge across their community.
When the idea of a development workshop for graduate students and professional members in the Addis community presented itself I knew I wanted to focus on women in the agricultural sector and ways in which the global community can support and mobilize women farmers. In New York, Richard Swoope, a fellow GPIA student also focusing in Conflict and Security, and I discussed various ways we could present the topic. It wasn’t until visiting a local demonstration plot in Addis and seeing a system in place which was focused on bringing women in the market that we realized our goal for our presentation would be how can we as a global community not only facilitate equality within farming in which women would be more integrated within the market and supported through female farming networks.
Preparing for the majority of our presentation in Addis was more difficult than anticipated. Wifi in Addis is extremely hard to find or consistently spotty. However, after splitting the presentation into two sub topics, government implemented policies within Ethiopia aimed at fully bringing women into the market, and challenges women face in the farming sector we were able to come up with a great presentation.
I was extremely happy with how our presentation went. Poor Richard had stomach cramps and was laying down up until we were up, the group who presented on climate change did the same icebreaker that we had planned to do so we had to quickly think of something new and there were a few technological glitches but overall everyone was very receptive to what we had to say. I think Sneha and Amanda really laid the groundwork for us in their women and gender presentation in that they were able to challenge the patriarchal system and cultural held beliefs which continue to marginalize women. I wasn’t able to attend but heard that it was really difficult to get the male attendees to think differently about the Care Economy.
I think having the seminar created a unique experience for us and allowed us to bring our outside knowledge from past careers as well as our graduate studies into play. It would have been helpful if in the United States we had more time to prepare with a better idea of what was expected from us. In preparation for the seminar, I believe we could have been more successful with better preparation from those that planned our collaboration with the Yom Institute of Economics.