Ru­ral Women and Fem­i­nism

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Keith­lin Ca­roo

Aweek ago I was in­vited to con­sul­ta­tions for a fem­i­nist map­ping of the Caribbean by a well-known fem­i­nist or­gan­i­sa­tion, of which the name will re­main undis­closed. While the event brought to­gether some of the bright­est young minds in the re­gional fem­i­nist sphere, I couldn’t help but feel that I was out of place. Is­sues—from sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health, LGBTQ mat­ters, men­tor­ship of young girls and men­tal health—were all at the fore­front of the dis­cus­sions. While these is­sues in­ter­weave into those faced by ru­ral women and girls, they all took prece­dence over the topic of ru­ral women in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor—a de­mo­graphic prob­a­bly need­ing the most at­ten­tion from fem­i­nist groups. At one point, some­one even in­sin­u­ated that the is­sue of ru­ral women was more of a de­vel­op­men­tal is­sue and that the fem­i­nist ad­vo­cacy sphere may not be the best place to gain sup­port. But if not here, then where else could these women gain as­sis­tance?

I re­al­ized that the is­sue of ru­ral women’s rights in the fem­i­nist sphere was not only over­looked in the Caribbean but world­wide and that the dis­con­nect was rooted in the mis­con­strued con­cep­tion of who or what is a fem­i­nist. Un­for­tu­nately many view fem­i­nists as male-hat­ing, braburn­ing women when, in fact, the op­po­site is true. Fem­i­nists can take many shapes and forms, from a school­teacher to a body­builder, as long as they hold the sim­ple be­lief that both men and women should live and thrive equally. Many ru­ral women may not call them­selves fem­i­nist but be­lieve that they should be able to ben­e­fit from the same train­ing, tech­ni­cal sup­port and ac­cess to land that men do. Dare I say that they are fem­i­nist too? The prob­lem is, in the Caribbean they don’t have fem­i­nist groups to as­sist them in get­ting the equal­ity they de­sire. How­ever, the fem­i­nist agenda, like any ide­ol­ogy, can be­come ex­clu­sive and fo­cus on per­sons who are highly ed­u­cated and most of­ten those who live in an ur­ban set­ting, while fem­i­nism should seek to in­clude all, re­gard­less of ur­ban or ru­ral con­text.

Some will sup­port the prior claim that the fem­i­nist sphere can­not sup­port ru­ral women be­cause they rep­re­sent more tra­di­tional con­cepts such as hav­ing a nu­clear home. How­ever, for ages there has been a high per­cent­age of house­holds headed by sin­gle moth­ers and it hasn’t changed yet. Fur­ther­more, if fem­i­nism, as Chi­ma­manda Adichie pow­er­fully said, rep­re­sents the “so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic equal­ity of the sexes” then why would ru­ral women in agri­cul­ture, who rep­re­sent a sub­stan­tial part of the Caribbean pop­u­la­tion and who are plagued with the same is­sues of in­equal­ity as women in other pro­fes­sions, not be at the fore­front of the fem­i­nist agenda?

Isn’t it about time that we had a ru­ral fem­i­nist agenda?

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