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Home >> En >> Wia >> Post >> Women In Agriculture Our Stories One Journey >> 2321

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Travelling journal: stories of empowerment and hope of eight rural women
by Marjo Busto
Feature Story
Friday, August 30, 2013 - 16:45

Penang, Malaysia - Every day, rural women in Asia face mounting challenges caused by an increasingly broken system of food and agriculture. High food prices, low income, land grabbing, climate change and decreasing control over seeds mark the experiences of women farmers who grow much of the region's food.

Our Stories, One Journey: Empowering Rural Women in Asia, a one-of-a kind travelling journal, has recorded the thoughts of eight rural women in eight different countries. They did it through writing, drawing, poetry and composing songs. Their message was simple: help transform agriculture into a more equitable, fair and sustainable system.

A Filipina farmer, Margarita Tagapan wrote the first entry in the journal when it kicked off in the Philippines during the International Women's Day in March 2013. She is a member of the National Federation of Peasant Women in the Philippines (Amihan) and runs its cooperative grain store.

The journal then journeyed into the hands of Suryati, a 36-year old farmer from the agrarian community of Pangalengan in Indonesia who recorded her life as a leader and mother. Suryati said, "Without land we can not produce food. That is why genuine land reform has to be done."

From Indonesia, it made its way to the agricultural village of Chenguan in the Yunnan Province of China, where Li Zizhen, an indigenous farmer leader is passionate about preserving the culture of her Bai ethnic people and is active in promoting ecological agricultural practices. She wrote the song Beautiful Chenguan, as her first entry to the journal, which was reflective of her positive attitude as she goes through a rural life faced with many challenges.

The journal made its fourth stop in Damnak Kantourt commune in the Kampot province of Cambodia. Chey Siyat, a leader of a village-based farmer association shared her thoughts on dealing with the impacts of climate change, raising productivity, and gaining greater access to markets through ecological agriculture.

In India, Shanthi Gangadaran, a 46-year old Dalit farmer from Tamil Nadu, warmly received the journal from Cambodia. In her entries, Shanti provided sketches of her life as a woman leader who is trying to change the fate of the landless Dalits. Shanthi is a respected leader of the Rural Women's Liberation Movement and her daily activities involve organising and mobilising Dalit women for land rights, encouraging women to participate in local governance, helping victims of violence and discrimination, and promoting organic agriculture.

Halfway through its journey across Asia, the journal went into the hands of Gunawathu "Amara" Hewagallage from the village of Maligavilla in Sri Lanka. Amara, well-known for her commitment to protect her community's resources, encourages people to keep traditional seeds and practice ecological farming.

The second to the last stop of the journal gave an intimate look into an Iban community facing the threat of land grabbing in Sarawak, Malaysia. Farmer Tija Anak Mang wrote about how she and other indigenous peoples struggle to keep their ancestral lands amid aggressive encroachments by palm oil companies.

The last stop of the travelling journal was in Hai Van commune in Vietnam. The journal ends with Bui Thi Huong, a 53-year old farmer and a mother of two who splits her time taking care of her family, organising women's groups and farming. She expressed her excitement about learning from the stories of other rural women, and about the potential of her own stories to help others.

From Vietnam, the journal will be handed over to PAN AP during its three-day Congress from 2-4 September 2013 in Penang, Malaysia. The PAN AP Congress will be a platform for rural women to come together, draw lessons from their experiences, and strategise with other communities to further assert their rights to land, food and livelihood.

The travelling journal is an initiative of the Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), Asian Rural Women's Coalition (ARWC), and Oxfam's GROW Campaign, together with rural organisations in eight countries.

The travelling journal will be exhibited during the PAN AP Congress. Through powerful, personal stories and images, the exhibition highlights the contributions and challenges that rural women face in growing food.

(For additional information about the PAN AP Congress and its work on women in agriculture, please contact Vasentha Sampasivam at vasentha.sampasivam@panap.net)

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