Flora and Edita, two Paraguayan Female Farmers Seeking to Advance the Role of Women

March 7, 2013


Flora and Edita fight to get a higher participation in a field dominated by men in Paraguay: the rural production

Richard Ferreira / Banco Mundial

  • Two women are an example of integration in one of the rural micro-catchment areas under the World Bank-supported Sustainable Rural Development Project.
  • Since 2009, the program has benefitted 7,300 households; the goal is to reach over 9,000 households in 45 indigenous communities.
  • In Paraguayan rural areas, women’s opinions are increasing their relevance in grassroots committees and groups.

The two women walk quickly to join the group of rural technician and micro-producers who are talking about the work in the Coronel Oviedo area, department of Caaguazú, located at 150 kilometer from Asunción.

They have traveled several kilometers on an old motorcycle to participate in the meeting, where they will be the only women. In their calloused hands, they bring vacuum flasks and guampas for the tereré (mate tea) against the hot summer temperatures that rise to almost 40ºC.

Flora Cañete de Sanabria and Edita de Jesús Franco de Sanabria, each of them with five children, are the only women among the 28 members of the small rural producer committee in Oñondivepa, in the area’s Yurugua company.

Several committees like this are working under the Sustainable Rural Development Project (Proders) promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), with the technical and financial support of the World Bank worth US$37.5 million.

"Women are actively involved in the group’s activities, either through their participation in grassroots committee meetings or in the formation of groups. Women also highly appreciate the project’s contribution to housing improvements," says Renato Nardello, World Bank Project Manager.

Flora and Edita’s family groups are part of one of the 61 rural community micro catchment areas covered by the program, which has been successfully developed since 2009 and benefitted 7,300 households. The final goal is to support over 9,000 households and 45 indigenous communities.

" If we hadn’t joined this organization we wouldn’t have learned all the things we know now and would have probably stayed home doing the same things we always did "

Flora Cañete de Sanabria

Rural producer

They make themselves heard

"Ejuke, ejuke… (Come, come!)", shouts Flora with a strong voice urging her friend to join the group that is talking under the tree shade. "Mba’eichapa! (Hello, how are you?)", she salutes those present without asking for permission.

All the eyes turn towards the women who protect themselves from the heat using caps and long sleeved shirts. "Buenas, tranquilopá (Everything is ok!)", some men answer in Jopará (mix of Guaraní and Spanish), and continue with the conversation.

After a short glance at Edita, Flora listens carefully. A brief moment of silence gives her the opportunity to join the conversation. She hasn’t come this far and left her farm unattended to be only a listener.

And she starts speaking. She talks about her experience, shares specific stories, acknowledges the support and highlights that they now see with different eyes their work as women. She combines her phrases in Jopará with hand gestures to reinforce what she says. And men nod.

Women and leaders

Edita says that it was her husband who first joined the committee; he now works as a janitor at a local school. Then she decided to participate, "in order to keep the struggle in the meetings", and also to learn how to maintain the farm and not to depend on others.

To prove that now she is the one in control of the household, with a playful smile she says that once her husband is done with his job at school, she sees that he helps with the farm and animals. "There are no days off, he must help," she adds looking at her friend.

"As mothers, we know all about the needs of our households. And we leave what we are doing for a while to organize with other people," says Flora, explaining the reasons that moved her into doing a task that was perceived as something that only men can do.

"If we hadn’t joined this organization we wouldn’t have learned all the things we know now and would have probably stayed home doing the same things we always did," she adds.