Rural women need the chance to be heard.
This is the basic premise from which sprung forth the idea of a one-of-a-kind journal that travelled across the region, collecting stories and insights of Asian rural women.
PAN AP, ARWC, together with our 8 partner groups (About us) and Oxfam's East Asia GROW Campaign, collaborated to make the first-ever Asian Rural Women's Travelling Journal a reality.
The goal was to share experiences, perspectives, and initiatives, and to draw valuable lessons on women's resilience, innovativeness, and strategies in achieving food security and agricultural development. The goal was to raise awareness on the situation of rural women and their communities' unsung efforts to assert rights over land and resources.
The travelling journal, written in the respective local language of each woman writer, was a unique chance for rural women to be empowered through storytelling, and for the rest of the world to have a unique glimpse into the lives of ordinary yet remarkable women. It became an empowering space and a powerful medium for rural women in asserting their leadership and rights to land, food and resources.
The journey (THE JOURNEY) started in the Philippines on March 8, 2013, timed significantly on the celebration of International Women's Day. The journal was passed on from a woman writer to the next, travelling across eight Asian countries-Philippines, Indonesia, China, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and finally, Vietnam-for six months.
From each country, a woman writer, for a period of 10 days, wrote down her daily thoughts, or illustrated through drawings or photos, about her life, family, community, and stories regarding food and agriculture.
In the journal, Margie Tagapan (FEATURE STORY, same goes for the rest of the women) from the Philippines told of how a women-led rice cooperative has brought relief to people facing hardships from destructive quarrying operations. Suryati of Indonesia cared for the family of peasants who are in jail because of trumped-up charges related to their struggle for land. Li Zizhen of China waxed poetic about how the Bai minority keeps their culture and traditional food alive, and how farmers try to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The journal entries of Chey Siyat of Cambodia described how increasing agricultural productivity is an effort that starts from the home, and is sustained by the entire community.
Shanthi Gangadaran of India, a Dalit who has helped women attain land rights, counselled farmers who are mired in debt and contemplating suicide. Amara Hewagallage of Sri Lanka proved that to be a community activist is to have little rest and instead fill each day with things that needed to be done, from dialogues with government to ecological agriculture trainings and seed exchanges. Tija Anak Mang of Malaysia wrote of how she enjoins fellow farmers to resist encroachment from a palm oil plantation, and how she struggles to keep her own native lands free from pollution. Bui Thi Huong of Vietnam mixed personal emotions on the death of her mother-in-law, and descriptions of her duties as head of a women's union, such as leading efforts in System of Rice Intensification and Integrated Pest Management.
In each of their stories, the women writers illuminated situations and carried demands that a reader would be enriched to discern for themselves. The statement of demands was brought to the Food and Agriculture Organization's Committee on World Food Security 40th Session in Rome on October 7 to 11, 2013. Their message was simple: help transform agriculture into a more equitable, fair and sustainable system.
Finally, these demands were at the center of coordinated actions in different countries during the International Rural Women's Day, October 15, 2013