QUEZON CITY -- The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is continuously striving to uphold the welfare and interest of women farmers. "There is a need to further empower rural women who are regarded as the invisible productive force in the rural economy," said DAR Secretary Rafael "Ka Paeng" Mariano who also committed to increasing the number of women agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) under his term.
Despite being categorized as male-dominated industries, millions of women are engaged in agriculture and fisheries. The majority of rural women are among the unpaid family workers and their actual contribution in the food production and rural economy remain undervalued and at times invisible.
Rural women who engage in rice farming spend an average of 7.8 hours in the fields according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Their work for subsistence in agriculture, housework and family care are not taken into account in the labor force statistics and their work is not counted as productive output for the economy.
"Through various policies and programs, we are ensuring that both women and men farmers have equal opportunities and share in the fruits of their toiling," Mariano further stated. "We salute women farmers and all rural women who are at the forefront of the fight to assert their lands and right to till."
According to the agrarian reform chief, the efforts and sacrifices of women farmers are valuable contributions to the nationwide struggle for a genuinely redistributive land reform.
Indicators show that across the years, the percentage of women beneficiaries remain to be below 50 percent. The lowest percentage share of women was recorded in 2001 with 30.6 percent and the highest in 2010 with 41.2 percent.
However, women beneficiaries of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) consistently increased from the year 2001 to 2010 and then generally declined in recent years. In 2015, out of the total two million ARBs, 679,000 are women with the Eastern Visayas Region having the largest number of women CLOA holders at 65,234.
One billion rising
Last March 6, DAR officials and rank-and-file employees also participated in the One Billion Rising Revolution (OBRR), the annual campaign to eliminate violence against women and children. Global estimates indicate that about 1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced either physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.
Women's group Gabriela is leading the OBRR campaign in the Philippines and Gabriela Secretary General Joms Salvador led the DAR community in dancing to the tune of "Isang Bilyong Babae ang Babangon" during a program held at the DAR Gymnasium.
"Kasama sa mga isinusulong natin na mga isyu ay ang kahingian ng kalakhan ng kababaihang magsasaka sa ating bansa at ito ay ang pagkakaroon ng lupang sinasaka at pagpapabuti ng kanilang kalagayan sa pagsasaka," said Salvador.
The Gender and Development (GAD) office of DAR will host an Agri-Fair and Food Festival that will showcase the produce and products of ARBs along with fora on the rights of rural women this month.
Out of the 663 employees of DAR Central Office, 438 are women. An orientation workshop for DAR Regional Women Desk Officers will also be held to strengthen the department's mechanism in providing services to women farmers and promote its violence against women (VAW) advocacy.
"The genuine emancipation of rural women from poverty, social injustice and sexual discrimination lies in genuine social change," said Mariano. The DAR Secretary was also hailed by Gabriela in 2013 as one of the "V-men Philippines" for standing up and lending his voice in fighting and defending the rights of women farmers.
Source: Philippines information agency