Statement delivered by the Deputy Minister for Economic Development, Hon. Teresa Bellanova, at the Side Event IOM/FAO of the Global Migration Group (GMG) on “Maximizing the Contribution of Rural Women Migrants” —
I thank Ambassador Thompson for her question that allows me first to illustrate in this setting the contribution of rural women to Italy’s agricultural and economic sectors. Women, whose rightful role in Italian agriculture should be acknowledged, considering that about one third of Italy’s farms are run by women.
resourceful women that have taken over a trade that throughout the centuries was considered far too masculine, but who were able to bend it to their needs in the best possible way. In Italy, women-run farms are often multifunctional and rely on diversified activities. This is widely demonstrated by the 8,027 agritourism businesses run by women, accounting for 36.1% of the total, with a growth in women’s management of facilities of 2.7% compared to 2014.
Italian women agricultural entrepreneurs are able to ensure quality management while making multifunction a winning formula for the upkeep of their businesses, bearing a positive impact not only on the agricultural sector but on the overall economy of a given rural area.
In its efforts to promote women’s entrepreneurship, Italy has set up a guarantee fund that facilitates access to credit for women during the start-up phase of their businesses. This fund, which is also available to women farmers, is one of the financial instruments considered a priority for the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises, accounting for an approximate 38 million euros.
In recognition and promotion of the contribution of women to agriculture, Italy established at the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies the Premio De@Terra award, with the practical purpose of exploring the potential for cooperation in the agricultural and agro-food sector, for the transfer of know-how and good practices, and for activating synergies among Italian and foreign entrepreneurs.
In various editions of the award from 2001 to date, approximately 80 women agricultural entrepreneurs have been awarded, distinguishing themselves for their outstanding efforts in working for the development of agriculture and rural areas. The common characteristics of all of these women prize recipients are the will and ability to produce high quality food, while respecting traditions and the environment.
The contribution of rural women, however, to Italy’s agriculture is not limited to the sole concept of entrepreneurship, but also includes their role s farm workers, the majority of which in Italy are migrant women.
Italy is particularly committed to the protection of migrant women, often sadly the victims of labor exploitation in our country, and especially in the agricultural sector. In 2016, the Italian government adopted its first National Action Plan against human trafficking and the grave exploitation, which allocated 15 million euros in 2016 and 23 million in 2017 to fund projects for the protection and assistance of victims of human trafficking.
In 2017, the Italian government also adopted the new National Strategic Plan combating men’s violence against women for the 2017-2020 period, which has a special focus on women migrants, refugees and asylum seekers due to their particularly vulnerable status of migrants, exposing them to multiple forms of discrimination. The activities specifically dedicated to migrant women cut through all spheres of the Plan’s strategic interventions across the board.
Italy, through its action in development cooperation, works transnationally to promote education and the professional training of girls and adolescents; to improve women’s economic conditions, to better safeguard women’s sexual and reproductive health; and promote national laws that combat discrimination and gender-based violence.
Cooperazione Italiana supports women also in their role as advocates of political and social transformation and as stabilizing and economic growth factors of society. In this perspective, we have incorporated a transversal component that puts women at the center of long-lasting socio-economic dynamics, including initiatives dedicated to agricultural development and support for the private sector.
Women are, in particular, the main actors and beneficiaries of the “Italy-Senegal – PAIS Agricultural Program”, which consists in credit assistance of 15 million euros to be invested in increasing agricultural production, yields and income. The integration of the gender dimension into the program is also guaranteed by the work of Senegal’s Ministry for Women, Families and Childhood, providing specific gender indicators when monitoring and assessing production activities.
A credit assistance of 30 million euros directed to the Ethiopian government for the project, “Inclusive and Sustainable Development in Agricultural Production in Oromia and in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples” Region, also bears a strong gender imprint: the program’s activities aim to create an adequate level of women’s enjoyment of the benefits of production chains through a significant increase in the number of women in cooperatives (from 20% to 50%); the set-up of cooperatives led by women in the food industry sector and the strengthening of capacities and knowledge on gender themes of consulting services.
In conclusion, equal access to means of production and to opportunities for girls to obtain an adequate educational background are the mainstays without which we will not be able to eliminate the gender gap in agriculture and give the visibility women are owed for their contribution to rural areas.