For many generations, both in the Pacific region and across the world, women have been positively influencing their families and communities. Often, they have the primary family responsibility for ensuring food security, and as a group, are an essential part of the agriculture sector. This is especially true in the Pacific region where they play a key role in many aspects of food security through planting, growing, preparing, storing and processing food.
However, in many cases communities have not identified women as farmers, farm workers or even part of the agricultural sector. This leaves the impact of their role hidden, and their challenges in fulfilling this role unaddressed. The ratio of women’s participation in the agricultural workforce versus the power they have to influence policy is severely unbalanced.
Pacific leaders have taken a few steps to rectify this issue with public commitments such as the 2012 Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration as well as in international human rights commitments so that specific focus is placed on ensuring that women’s status is elevated and to increase their participation in economic, political and social life. However, a great deal more must be done to ensure that the rights of women are reflected in national agricultural laws and policies, and that the public commitment of regional leaders is backed with the required resources.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many sectors to reconsider ways of living, thinking and working particularly in agriculture where the benefits of traditional farming practices for local communities are becoming clear. As focus returns to this area, it is the right time for leaders, both at the national and community levels, to allow the hidden voices, knowledge and experience of women to help shape the future of Pacific agriculture.
The following paper briefly highlights participation of women within the agricultural sector and brings to focus their role, the value assigned to their work, their level of involvement in decision making in the sector and the specific support they might require to equally engage and contribute in this sector.