Section 3

In Our DNA

The pivotal role of rural women in the development of Paraguay

Inequality is more pronounced in rural areas and, compared to their male counterparts, rural women face discrimination in accessing goods and services and participating in social and political life.

I have the opportunity to travel throughout our country and to interact with many rural women, observing first-hand the value of their work in these areas. It is abundantly clear that they are the invisible backbone of family farming, productivity, farm labor, and family sustenance in Paraguay. In our conversations during these encounters, we always agree that we have the opportunity to make a real push for recognition of the value of women’s work in the countryside.

In our country, 1.3 million rural women maintain their households and their community through their work. These are the efforts that we want to spotlight and to recognize through public policies, given the role that rural women play in reproduction, production, and the community, and the fact that that they toil and shoulder a significant workload, which is often disregarded and rarely valued.

Despite their pivotal role and active contribution to the local and national economy, they continue to suffer discrimination, as reflected in their lower income, scant resources, limited opportunities, and other forms of inequality.

There are many challenges that we must tackle as a society, particularly as it concerns women in the rural environment. We, at the Office of the First Lady (OPD), are working to bring them out of the shadows and to ensure that they are included at all levels of society. We are convinced that providing them with better opportunities and greater access to and control of land will contribute to the sustainable development and improvement of farming communities.

We want to guarantee basic rights and financial independence, which are fundamental to their empowerment and personal development.

Data provided by Paraguay’s Ministry of Women to the United Nations in 2015 allows us a better understanding of this reality: the main gender gaps in the country involve access to and control of resources, opportunities, services, and participation in decision-making. Inequality is more pronounced in rural areas and, compared to their male counterparts, rural women face discrimination in accessing goods and services and participating in social and political life.

At the Office of the First Lady (OPD), we want to embrace an integrated model that empowers women in all spheres, and in doing so to help them to gain their genuine and longed-for independence. My focus is on including an emphasis on women’s empowerment—particularly rural women—in public policies aimed at development and social well-being. We are working and pushing for a greater leadership role for rural women in Paraguay, through the Ley Nacional - N° 5446/2015 de Políticas Públicas para Mujeres Rurales (National Law N° 5446/2015 on Public Policies for Rural Women), which arose out of the involvement of rural women themselves. The law is now in the process of being approved, for its subsequent implementation.

Status of Rural Women in Paraguay
Article 2º of National Law N° 5446/2015 defines the rural woman as “a woman whose livelihood and income are directly or indirectly linked to agriculture, livestock, craftwork, or any other productive activity that takes place in the rural environment, and who is socially, economically, and culturally vulnerable”.

According to a 2008 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Paraguayan women in rural areas have historically fought for their rights, organizing themselves into movements. Up to 2000, there was only one women’s group at the national level: the Coordinación de Mujeres Campesinas, which is part of the overall peasant movement - Movimiento Campesino Paraguayo. Subsequently, with the creation of the Coordinación Nacional de Mujeres Rurales e Indígenas (National Organization of Rural and Indigenous Women), women were given their own forum, gaining greater visibility, and through their efforts making important gains in terms of health and educational services in rural areas.

In Paraguay, 47.14% of the population is rural and rural women represent 18.23% of the overall population, for a total of 1,267,835 people. Women are the heads of household in 25.06% of rural homes, figures that were obtained from the 2015 revision of the 2000-2025 national population projections by the General Directorate of Statistics, Surveys, and Census (DGEEC).

Poverty in women is directly linked to sociocultural factors, which affect their ability to access education, basic services, credit, the workforce, training or land ownership. All these factors limit their opportunities to become financially independent, earn an income, take care of their expenses, or make decisions about their production resources.

The empowerment of women, and particularly rural women, through the application of Law N° 5446/2015, is one of our priorities. Providing them with more access to financial resources gives them a real opportunity to exercise their social and economic rights. This offers working women a stake in the future.

Initiatives for the empowerment of rural women in Paraguay
Taking into account the obstacles faced by rural women seeking platforms for engagement, personal and professional progress, we, in Paraguay, are working through various government institutions. We have embarked on a very important challenge: the economic and social empowerment of rural women.

As part of our actions to empower our rural women, we are focusing on key areas to enable greater engagement and economic, social, and cultural inclusion. In this way, our actions, projects, and legislation will help to reduce their vulnerability. We aim to be an agent of change that contributes to reshaping and eradicating customs that have become entrenched in Paraguayan culture over time. - Public Policies for Rural Women
National Law N° 5446/2015 on Public Policies for Rural Women is a law that was enacted as a result of the work and active participation of rural women. Its main objective is to promote and guarantee the economic, social, political, and cultural rights of rural women, which are critical to their empowerment and development.

This legislation is extremely important in gaining recognition for the work of rural women, who are at a disadvantage, due to numerous difficulties and/or obstacles, which has prompted the establishment of the Interinstitutional Commission for Application of the Law (CIAL), which coordinates the actions of 15 State institutions that work for the advancement of rural women.

Among the noteworthy results and achievements of this law are technical, financial, production, organizational, and trade-related assistance; training in marketing management; and access to technology.

Yet, despite the tangible results, the actions thus far have impacted only a little more than 1% of rural women. We have faith that this law and further efforts will yield exponentially greater results during our administration.

-The Kuña Katupyry Project
In collaboration with the National Development Bank, I have been involved in this project since I first became First Lady. Its main purpose is to assist women living in poverty to access financing for economic activities, under favorable terms and without the need for collateral. The project targets women of limited financial means, who are between 18 and 75 years, and who require financial resources to undertake economic activities. These resources should be used to meet operational capital or small investment needs, to develop economic activities in rural and urban areas across the country. I am confident that Kuña Katupyry is a very important tool for the empowerment of women, by strengthening their economic activities.

The empowerment of rural women: present and future
The rural woman’s role in the development of rural areas is a tangible and undeniable reality. She works, produces, maintains her household, and fosters community development. It is time that we recognize this hard-working figure as the lynchpin of our economy.

The future of this country’s rural working women will depend in great part on strengthening this sector and facilitating greater engagement, with more women leaders at the helm of organizations, thus faciltating greater recognition of the pivotal role of rural woman in Paraguay.

We are confident that our administration at the OPD will further the development of rural women, and that this empowerment will persist over time, generating opportunities for this sector, which to this day is vulnerable and subject to discrimination.

The empowerment of rural women will help to spur the change that we are advocating for Paraguay, thereby eliminating the inequality that hurts us all and creating a new reality for the well-being of our entire country.

  • Share this article
Verónica Alfíe • Weaving My Way into the Fabric and Looms of Argentina’s Rural Women Silvana Abdo

First Lady of the Republic of Paraguay