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Covid 2020 the pandemic as seen by women, testimonies from Italy.


The origin of women’s distinct sensitivity to the issue of food is lost in the mists of millennia.Women are credited with “inventing” agriculture with the domestication of seeds and the care devoted to food production. The contribution of women in all choices is crucial not so much because they are necessarily better than men but in that they are able to bring different experiences and sensibilities from those of men .In this way they help make decision-making processes more responsive to needs. This is why I believe it is important for women to have an authoritative presence in all contexts, from the family to the highest levels of the state, contributing collegially to decisions and choices. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go: gender inequalities persist even here,starting with the gap in remuneration; and even more so in politics if we consider, for example, that only50% of countries have had a female president of state and Italy belongs to the other 50%. Rural women across the planet are a mainstay of family farming that produces more than 70% of the food for human consumption. And in developing countries 450 million small and very small farmers and women farmers feed (as they can) nearly 3 billion people. In Italy, women entrepreneurs in agriculture are 30 percent, but they become almost 37 percent when moving to multifunctional agriculture in which production is not the sole purpose, but is associated with the provision of a variety of services: agri-nursery, internships for young people, educational farms, organic farming, recreation. This is a model of agriculture that women have strongly contributed to develop, which also appeals to young people, and which offers employment opportunities superior to those of other businesses. But the role of women in agriculture is even more evident when one considers their attention to environmental sustainability, biodiversity, soil fertility, reduction of waste, waste, and containment of agro-chemicals. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the concept of sustainability in the full sense, that is, as not only economic but also environmental and social sustainability, was developed by a woman, Gro Harlem Brundtland, chair of the United Nations Commission on Environment and Development in the report “Our Common Future”(1987). The Brundtland report pointed precisely to the serious damage to the environment CLAUDIA SORLINI PRESIDENT HOUSE OF AGRICULTURE caused by the development model and the great social inequalities found everywhere. On the other hand, even the fight against waste, starting with domestic waste, has always been a field of women’s commitment, which, however, has now taken on a global dimension supported by large institutions and which in Italy can count on a law(L.166/2016) that, again perhaps not by chance, bears the name of a young woman as its first signatory, the Hon. Maria Chiara Gadda. Some sociological surveys highlight the greater attention of women farmers to the protection of traditions, landscape and quality of life, and on this basis they attribute to rural women a humanistic vision of agriculture. While I think this is likely, however, it does not detract from the interest they express in innovation and experimentation. Just think of the fierce women in wine, rice, dairy, etc. who are ready to adopt new technologies and experiment with new varieties that are quality-improved and resilient to climate change. Finally, I like to mention the tenacity and pugnacity of rural women, their battles and victories, such as the recent one of “Women in the Field” on zero-interest financing reserved for women entrepreneurs. If during the lockdown we were able to continue to have the food we needed on the table, if in the welter blocking the entire economy the agribusiness sector was experienced as, if not the only, at least the most important certainty, we owe it to the world of agriculture and processing and the women in it.


The lockdown experience was shot through with silences and isolation, fears and suffering that left deep traces. Locked physically inside our living circle and at a distance from the rest of our relationships and social places, uncertainty entered us, discovering us all vulnerable and in need of mutual protection. These were months in which we experienced the physical distance with each other with great fatigue, but also months of great concern about what this could mean today on the growth of our children and on the emotional and symbolic experiences of our adolescents and young people, but especially what this could mean for their future development. The two phrases that have been almost our mantra during this period, “I’m staying home” and “It’s going to be okay,” constantly repeated by social media and national and local news outlets, have not impacted everyone in the same way. Confinement has made women victims of violence even more vulnerable and isolated, forced to stay at home at the mercy of their tormentor, often corresponding to their husband or partner, limiting, almost to the point of nullifying, other social relationships. Gender violence during the lockdown During the lockdown, in March-June 2020,the growth in reports of domestic violence grew exponentially. This was revealed by the survey conducted by Istat, which analyzed data from state services to combat gender-based violence and stalking. There was, in fact,in the period from March 1 to April 16, 2020 alone, an increase over the previous year of more than 73% in calls to the toll-free number 1522 (the “pink” number dedicated to receiving requests for help and support for victims of violence and stalking promoted by the Presidency of the Council of MinistersDepartment of Equal Opportunity) to double with an increase of 119% over the entire lockdown period. Analyzing the data reveals one more aspect and that is that the increase in applications in the first few months of lockdown is connected more to the awareness campaigns that made women feel less alone. However, the rise in requests is evident MARINA GALATI ASSOCIATION COMMUNITY PROJECT SOUTH VICE PRESIDENT CNCA especially in the following months, particularly in May and June, and we have also experienced this in our Anti-Violence Center in Lamezia Terme, Calabria. To an initial decrease in telephone referrals for maltreatment between March and April,there was in contrast a considerable increase in referrals received by the Center in May and June. It is not that the phenomenon had disappeared, but that the victims probably in the state of confinement, with the presence and under the control of their attackers, were unable to call for help. The surge of complaints in the following two months note the exacerbation of conflicts, tensions due to long cohabitation forced by the pandemic that increased the intensity of violent behavior. Several new cases during this period were reported to us by the Police, who intervened in some domestic violence incidents. Concern about women and children who are victims of domestic violence has also grown in Italy through constant reports and complaints from anti-violence centers and professional associations, which have highlighted the consequences that lockdown could bring where conditions of domestic violence exist. In this regard, the Superior Council of the Judiciary (SCM) has issued guidelines “Good Operational Practices for the Best Protection of Battered Women and their Children” to enable timely response in case of danger. Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese has asked all prefectures to identify available housing to take in women victims of violence on an emergency basis given that provisions for the Covid-19 pandemic had restricted some activities of anti-violence centers and Shelter Houses, facilities the latter of which are intended to welcome and protect victims of violence in the territories. In fact, some Centers, due to the pandemic, have had difficulty remaining open given the regulations issued by some regions to respond to the health emergency. This brought an involvement of people, associations, and organizations who asked what was possible to do together and how they could make their help and expertise available, while being social and economic realities that in their personal and business day-to-day were dealing with other things. I believe that the solidarity expressed during the pandemic strengthened the resilience of society. Pre-existing social relations were all brought into play and projected into new interconnections and new forms of mutuality. The social life and community of care has expanded and innovated, interweaving availability, forms of help, unexpressed capacities and reformulating new ways of working and solving problems in an area. For example, CNCA, a network of Welcoming Communities located throughout the country, and the Women in the Field Association of the National Confederation of Agriculture, tried to figure out how, by pooling their specificities, they could give concrete answers to women victims of violence(from reception to the promotion of job placement paths, from social and health intervention to training in social agriculture activities). The network work of the Anti-Violence Center Accompanying a woman out of situations of violence, especially when it is provoked by her husband or partner, has its own complexity such that one association alone cannot be expected to respond to different levels of intervention. It often takes a long journey before women can regain the strength to report. Dealing with the pain and shame in declaring to oneself and one’s social network the violence suffered, the ambivalence between love and hate toward one’s partner, the fear of children’s experiences or the risk of losing them, the economic and personal security aspects, are strong deterrents that hold a woman back both in filing an immediate complaint and to the determination of a final breakup. Those who work with a violated woman know that it takes time and patience; often during the course of helping her, steps forward are taken and others cause her to go backward in her choices. Our Anti-Violence Center works in a network with all public and private institutions involved in helping victims. Psychological, legal, health and social counseling is offered. It works in synergy with law enforcement agencies, health facilities, women’s advocate associations, shelters, and shelters. The network work carried out with the different actors mentioned above, allowed for the implementation of mutually synergistic interventions. In addition, a lot of joint training has been carried out over time at the hospital deanships within which joint training sessions have been held with different health workers. The emergency room represents a very important nodal point for the entire protection system: sending a woman to the emergency room is not only useful for receiving de facto initial health care, but also a place where she can leave a useful trail in the event of a complaint, as well as a place where she can find health care workers who can diagnose the difference between a fall down the stairs to violent beatings she has received. It is determined to have women lawyers professionally trained on gender-based violence in accompanying their client through the usually very painful and tortuous judicial process. A great deal of work has been done in recent years in trying to bring together the various professional skills, competencies and specificities of organizations and institutions not only to carry out synergistic interventions on each violated woman, but also to activate pathways of prevention and awareness. Very important are the programs done together with schools to raise awareness of domestic and gender-based violence and to connect with adolescents and young people who often witness scenes of violence in their homes. It is no coincidence that,in recent times, we are seeing young people coming to our center to report the violence their mothers are experiencing. In particular, they ask for advice and support. Differentiated stories, but always of violence aimed at women. Gender-based violence is present in every culture but there are certainly differences in how they are experienced and the behaviors enacted. Women from other cultures have also been coming to the Anti-Violence Center in recent years, some requesting help spontaneously others because they were referred by law enforcement. Eastern women are the ones who report the most, while African women mostly seek help from their community and specifically the extended family network. Other gender-based violence intersects with violence due to sex trafficking, although we know that the characteristics are different and the impacts are much more complex. Other discourse we have with women who rebel against their husbands and partners in the ‘ndrangheta clans and are segregated, raped, and barbarically murdered. As Linda Laura Sabbadini, the director general of ISTAT’s Department of Social and Environmental Statistics, points out, gender-based violence is a cross-cutting phenomenon, intersecting social classes and geographic areas and expanding to an international dimension. She strongly urges the need to have at the European level a survey on violence that should be mandatory for all member countries, as is already the case for labor or economic conditions. As women, we all have a duty to support those who are violated and to denounce those who commit crimes, to accompany our society to growth and a change of mentality and culture, to disseminate, starting with our children, respect and the foundational value of every person and their dignity.


The status of Rural Woman and Agricultural Entrepreneur is changing, today we detect greater professionalism of women entrepreneurs who increasingly enter this world after having pursued different studies and specializations precisely because there is greater awareness and (opportunities than in the past) of what they are going to face. Being a farmer today means coming to terms with many factors, you have to know the economy and its basics, taxation and what it entails to take one choice over another, you have to be a little bit of an agronomist, a little bit of an oenologist, a little bit of a veterinarian, a little bit of an economist, and there the field of expertise widens and those who are fortunate enough to learn these skills in the field, perhaps because they come from a family that has always worked in the field, apply them and can find the impetus to continue an already established business, the others acquire the skills with time, experience and willpower but both with the common goal of projecting agriculture toward a healthier and more sustainable vision. The data say that 43% of the people who revolve around the farm are women… Women who hold different roles with different weights… 37% of the people who work on the farm are women, of these 39% have legal responsibility for it (farm manager) and 36% have the day-to-day, day-to-day management of it (farm manager) but by examining some of the characteristics of women-owned farms we can profile women and their farms: They are often farms with modest physical size (5 hectares on average), they are solid businesses, with extensive use of wage labor, they use “gender knowledge” creatively (outside the established canons) in economic terms (hospitality, food processing, recovery of traditional varieties, biodiversity protection, etc.). Women’s businesses have a greater propensity to introduce innovation on the farm, have greater sensitivity to quality and environmental compatibility, and hence a greater propensity for food security aimed at eliminating food and resource waste; their reduced recourse to credit, in addition to the difficulty in obtaining it, is a choice often dictated by the desire to “get the economic situation under control”; for this reason, women’s companies are considered more reliable; they have a greater propensity for a direct relationship with the PINA TERENZI PRESIDENT DONNE IN CAMPO – CIA consumer,they encourage short supply chains and prefer direct contact with customers. Agriculture in Italy is going through a new phase that depending on the territories varies and changes with some ease, there are areas where agricultural activity finds new forms of employment and new resources and others where it cannot even get off the ground, considering a regional plan for example in central Italy we have higher concentration of female-run farms Lazio, Molise, Abruzzo, Campania and others where male-run farms are the dominant in northern Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia Romagna. This data makes us think a lot as we know that what keeps rural areas alive are mainly women who decide to settle and settle in certain areas and if they build their businesses there they create community and where there is a community with useful services for the whole community the social economic status of an area changes. This phenomenon in some areas is counteracting depopulation by going somewhat against the trend. At the European level it is an encouraging fact that the number of women engaged in agriculture is growing, albeit rather slowly. Italy is in 5th place behind Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania. However, generational change does not seem to be conducive to increasing the number of women employed in agriculture: only 4.9 percent of farmers are women under 35, while more than 40 percent of women working in this field are over 65. If the trend does not change, the gender gap could then grow in the coming years, and this gap would exacerbate the problems of female entrepreneurship. The gender vision with equal pay for example is a factor that with the Copa Cogeca women’s committee we are seriously addressing precisely to give more opportunities for women to do agricultural work serenely and appropriately. Nevertheless, women feed the world and so what is the female role in nutrition? The latest United Nations report on world hunger shows that some 795 million people still suffer from hunger. The most vulnerable to hunger remain women and children, and according to UNICEF data too many of the latter die every minute under the age of 5, a truly alarming figure. In addition, according to an FAO report, the number of countries facing a food crisis today has doubled since 1990.Compared with the billions of tons of food thrown in the trash, there are one billion people in the world who do not have access to sufficient food resources. Also according to FAO, about 1/3 of the food produced and distributed in the world is wasted: much of it along the food supply chain due to malfunctioning production systems, and millions of tons is thrown into the trash by individuals. Of this waste in rich countries 40 percent of the losses occur at the sales and consumption stage thus in the final cycle of a product. In low-income countries, however, losses occur at the post-harvest stage and during industrial processing. To limit losses upstream in the agribusiness chain, the production of new and old seeds could be secured and entrusted to women farmers who have demonstrated in their enterprises curiosity, desire for innovation. To limit waste at the industrial processing stage, it would be necessary, especially in low-income countries, to innovate production processes through knowledge transfer from more advanced countries, make significant improvements in logistics systems with investments aimed at avoiding unnecessary delays that lead products to the inevitable premature spoilage. Among the causes of this mass waste are also the bad habits of millions of people, who do not store produce properly. In order to limit waste at the household level, the one on which each of us can play a fundamental role, there would need to be changes at the cultural level, which first and foremost affects the younger generation, and it is this time when the presence of women becomes fundamental, we see it in educational farms, in agritourisms, in schools where women do training and information. Women do information and awareness-raising about protecting produce, caring for the land, and the importance of food by encouraging and teaching reuse and recycling techniques by implementing practices that can prevent food waste. Food recovery projects should be encouraged in schools particularly in school cafeterias, company canteens and hotels, places that have the most difficulty in avoiding waste. In all this, women play an important role whether they are farmers, mothers, teachers or individuals holding political, administrative and/or representative positions, their sensitivity is very high. When at our last assembly we spoke of A “Pact for the Green Deal” with women farmers at the center of the green transition announced by Europe, we meant just that, to make ourselves Promoters of food security, guardians of biodiversity and advocates for the protection of landscape and territories, the more than 200,000 Italian women farmers want to be at the forefront of building and implementing this green revolution. For this to be possible, “we need to make the agricultural sector a key player, but above all, between now and 2030, this transition needs to be accompanied by two actions: a major commitment to innovation and research, and a major plan for outreach, training, and technical assistance to come alongside farmers and facilitate the transition toward the set goals.”

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