The Farming Reality for Rural Pacific Island Women

November 2019

High Expectations Little Support

Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata’fa at the 2019 Pacific Week of Agriculture in Samoa 

Gender roles are formed by societal cultural norms.

These norms which are founded on ideological, religious, ethnic, economic and cultural factors has a large influence on the way responsibilities and resources between men and women are distributed.

Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata’fa says there is still much work to be done to ensure gender equality in the agriculture sector.

“A literature review undertaken in 2012 on Rural Pacific Island Women and Agriculture showed that the ways in which Pacific women participate in agriculture vary by island and local cultural norms.”

“Yet women’s critical contributions in planting, tending, and harvesting crops and edible marine life sustain the majority of families throughout the region,” she said.

“Whether it might be subsistence farming to feed their families or growing cash crops to earn an income; women’s labor in agriculture is a crucial part of food production and consumption in our communities.”

In comparison to men, Hon. Mata’fa said the expectations for women are higher.

“As well as an unequal time burden women are expected to engage in agriculture on top of their normal household responsibilities,” she said.

Research undertaken by the Pacific Community in Fiji following Cyclone Winston showed women were taking over roles of men in villages as men were moving into towns to look for work.

“Rural women in the Pacific Islands region certainly do not have it easy,” said Pacific Community’s Director General Dr Colin Tukuitoga.

“They often lack access to basic services and infrastructure such as water and sanitation, electricity, health and education.”

“They are more at risk of domestic violence where on average in the Pacific 50% of every partnered rural women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence as well unwanted pregnancies than women in urban areas,” he said.

“They walk for miles to custom bush gardens to grow food for their families and they work for hours gleaning marine life to sell in the market to earn an income for their families.”

“Yet, rural women in the Pacific continue to face some of the biggest development challenges,” said Dr Tukuitoga.

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