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'Men need to understand the role of women'
Men need to understand that women are equally important in the development process. This is what country director, Januario Ntungwa of Trias Uganda said during the EDD in Brussels.
This year, the European Development Days focused on the importance of the role of women and girls in the field of sustainable development. This two-day event, organised by the European Commission, brings together 8,000 experts in development cooperation. Trias also attended the event with its own booth and delegated Januario Ntungwa to speak at a panel debate of the FAO and AgriCord, an umbrella group of multiple farmers’ associations.
The obstacles women face
Host of the event, EU official Bernard Crabbé, opened up the debate by saying that the importance of women in rural areas is ever increasing. 'In many regions, men move to the city or, worse, to the other side of the world. On their own, women have to move from survival agriculture towards a more market-oriented business model which allows them to be self-sufficient while having time to raise their children.'
Unfortunately, all over the world, women are faced with obstacles that complicate their self-development. Think of access to education, awareness, agricultural land and credit. 'What is happening lately is that women also have fewer opportunities to use online services,’ said Sophie Grouwels of the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
‘It is also important that we learn to listen carefully to the real needs of women on the ground,’ explained Kati Partanen of the World Farmers' Organisation. ‘If women lose a lot of time gathering wood for cooking, they may need technical solutions to maximise efficiency during the remaining working hours.'
From his many years of field experience at Trias Uganda, Januario Ntungwa mentioned another major obstacle. 'Do not forget social norms. As men, we need to understand that women play an equally important role in the improvement of the lives of our families and society. That idea has not yet been totally accepted, while it should be the most normal thing in the world,’ he said.
Research shows that equality between men and women is not achieved by supporting only women. In regions where this happens, more domestic violence incidents occur often because men are not mentally prepared to accept changing gender norms. 'We’re not only giving gender equality a higher priority in the farmers' organisations and business associations we are working with. The men are involved in the matter as well,' said Januario Ntungwa.
Freedom of choice?
Hannelore Beerlandt, director of AgriCord, concluded the panel by sharing her personal experience. ‘All my life, I have always been in a position to make free choices. Only recently did I come to the realisation that my freedom of choice is relative, because after all, we live in a man's world. Whereas we women don’t want a she-world but a we-world.’