By Milagros Jurado
Coinciding with the commemoration of Women’s Day, in ECA we want to claim the role and contribution of rural women professionals through this interview with Jerónima Bonafé, Secretary of the Governing Council of Agro-food Cooperatives of Spain, and President of Agro Cooperatives Of the Balearic Islands. With her, a clear example of a woman with a voice and a capacity for decision, in an environment where male leadership still prevails, we talk about issues such as the still low visibility of women in the governing bodies of cooperatives and organizations in the agricultural sector and, both, the need to continue working for a greater role of rural women.
e-Comercio Agrario: today is commemorated the International Women’s Day, how would you value her role in the rural area?
Jerónima Bonafé: of great importance in all the senses, the social, the economic and the labor. I believe that if women were not in rural areas, the rural enviroment would not continue.
ECA: What do you understand to be the main contribution of women in rural areas?
J.B .: one of the main is that it fixes and maintains the territory, in the broadest sense of the word. It is important to recognize that an agricultural farm today revolves around this important role that women perform.
ECA: do rural women professionals still have a long way to go in order to position themselves equally with men? Do you consider that there are still few women in positions of responsibility within agri-food organizations and companies?
J.B.: I believe that there is a long way, a path that is going step by step, day by day, but, still, much remains to be done. The rural woman is a woman with little visibility, due to her still little projection towards areas of representation and decision.
Rural women, apart from professionals in this sector, reconcile their working life with personal and family, which is one of the barriers that prevent them from being visible, in the highest expression of the word
If we speak specifically of the sector of agri-food cooperatives, there are still very few women in positions of responsibility. Thus, of the 25% of women members of cooperatives, only 3% is present in the governing councils and decision-making bodies. The panorama is not better in the Professional Agrarian Organizations, whose domes are mostly men, with rare exceptions in which a woman becomes secretary general.
Equality of opportunity between men and women in the agricultural sector is a topic that has been working in the last ten years, although it is still very difficult to take steps forward. The reason is that we are still instituting a culture of “keeping what we have”. In the case of the cooperative sector, the majority tendency for the governing councils to be composed mostly of men is being gradually dismantled.
ECA: what actions do you consider necessary to ease the career path for women within the rural and agri-food sector?
J.B.: I think it is very important to empower these women. That is, rural women should aspire to be leaders and this is achieved with a lot of awareness, which in the case of agri-food cooperatives is directed towards the governing councils and partners; also through much training and constant information to these women to raise awareness and give them to understand that the same as a man, and even better, can do a woman.
In our country, the culture of female empowerment, equal opportunities between men and women, has not been very insistent
ECA: what do you have to say about the participation and role of women in the case of agri-food cooperatives? What progress has been made in this regard?
J.B.: little progress has been made. Thus, several cooperatives from different autonomous communities have been involved in voluntary agreements with the IMIO (Women’s Institute and for Equal Opportunities), something that, in some way, has contributed to uncover the sensitivity that can begin to exist in cooperatives which are really committed to the integration and participation of women in their governing councils.
ECA: What kind of projects and initiatives are being developed from your organization to contribute to a greater role for women in rural areas?
J.B.: a project of entrepreneurship and promotion of the leadership of women in the decision-making bodies of agribusiness, in this case, cooperatives. It has been developing for years, through awareness raising and training, with the aim of increasing and improving the participation of women in the governing councils. These actions are directed at both men and women members of our cooperatives.
ECA: Do you consider that there are still important inequalities to be saved in areas such as wages?
ECA: what are the main challenges facing rural women professionals?
J.B .: the most important is to contribute to breaking the culture to which I have referred before, according to which leadership and leadership seem to have been made for men. Rural women must break this barrier, aspire to a greater role and lead any type of organization or cooperative, ending with that fear that we have to take a step closer to our visibility and to be in organizations of our civil society.
ECA: to what extent do you consider that since the Administration has been contributing to make visible the figure of women in the rural environment? Do we lack policies to support the participation and role of women in the agri-food sector?
J.B .: I think it depends a little on each Administration. In my opinion, different administrations should carry out public policies that are in the same line and direction. I believe that something similar to what is being proposed should be done with a State Pact against Gender Violence, extending it to all administrations in order to contribute more effectively to equality of opportunity between men and women in all areas of performance. In short, although some policies are being implemented in favor of greater gender equality, there is a need to focus more and reinforce what has already been done, especially in rural areas, where there is still a great deal of progress to be made in this regard.