Rural Women: community led-innovation and the consideration in the LTVRA

On Wednesday 22 November, the European Economic and Social Committee organised a thematic debate on gender equality and youth in rural areas organised by the Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment Section (NAT).

Blanca Casares, policy expert at AEIDL (European Association for Innovation in Local Development), was invited to present AEIDL’s work in this matter, which includes the GRASS CEILING Horizon Europe project, where Blanca leads the work package on co-creation of recommendations and tools for policy and knowledge and innovation systems that boost women’s role in the sustainable development of agriculture and rural areas.

Women in rural areas of the EU make up below 50% of the total rural population, they represent 45% of the economically active population, and about 40% of them work on family farms. The rate of self-employed women in rural areas is about 38%. Their importance in rural economy is even greater, since their participation through informal rural economy is not statistically recognised.

In her presentation, Blanca reviewed the consideration of rural women in the main policies such as the EU Gender Equality Strategy to 2025, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Green Deal and its Farm to Fork Strategy and EU long term vision for rural areas (LTVRA) by 2040.

In particular, the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers of the EU, held in Brussels on 20 November, gave the green light to the conclusions document on LTVRA, which advocates the implementation of initiatives that favour the development of these areas and the improvement of the living conditions of their inhabitants.

The Council welcomes the rolling out of the EU Rural Action Plan to achieve the goals of the LTVRA by 2040. It invites all national and regional administrations, local authorities and all stakeholders and communities to engage in the Rural Pact Community Platform.

The Council recognises that women represent a significant driving force for prosperity and social inclusion in rural areas, however they are facing additional challenges and in need of supporting measures to better integrate into the labour market, utilise existing and creating new opportunities for employment and innovation, and participate in decision making; and welcomes, in this respect, the inclusion of gender equality as one element of one specific objective of the new CAP, promoting the equal participation of women in farming and the socio-economic development of rural areas.

In response to the need for improving data collection and the quality of rural statistics, the conclusions underline the importance of expanding the EU Rural observatory, to municipal-level and, to include sex-disaggregated data and other types of functional areas, to inform the design and development of evidence-based and relevant rural policies.

Recent policy briefs published by AEIDL “Women in Rural Development: Integrating a gender dimension into policies for rural areas in Europe” as well as “The role of women in rural development and innovation or Women for a sustainable future of European rural areas” detail the main challenges for rural women in relation to the labour market, participation in public decision making, access to services or land. Furthermore, these policy briefs include the need of build statistics segregated by gender as well as region as well as develop more comparative studies on rural women across Europe.

Blanca also spoke about community-led innovation to encourage positive change and generate local socio-economic and environmental welfare. Available a briefing of what we mean by community-led local innovation prepared by AEIDL’s colleagues, among them Serafin Pazos-Vidal, Senior Expert. In 2022, AEIDL launched the European Local Innovation Forum (ELIF) to help drive a pan-European conversation about local innovation, enhance action on the ground, and put them on the EU agenda. 

As part of GRASS CEILING, AEIDL and COPA-COGECA run the European Policy Forum for women-led innovation in agriculture and rural areas and are the coordinators of the EU Rural Pact Community Group on Women in Rural Areas. Anyone interested can join and help bring ideas and good practices to improve the gender dimension of EU rural policies by subscribing here.

Author: Blanca Casares (AEIDL)