Prangthip Sup Prakobkit
Helen’s Daughters was born in 2016 out of a call for proposals from UN Women’s Empower Women Champions for Change Program with the belief that there was a need to support rural women with the use of adaptive agricultural techniques, capacity-building and improved market access. While the banana crash in St. Lucia had affected every farmer regardless of gender, there was a perception that farming was male-oriented, and women farmers played an insignificant role in the whole spectrum of the St. Lucian agricultural landscape. Therefore, initiatives that were brought forth to reinvent the market mostly included male farmers.
Interestingly enough, in the Castries Market (the largest produce market on island), 90% of the vendors are women, yet many still perceive that these women are not the actual producers, while this may be true in some cases, in most cases women are both producer and vendor. This perception has essentially blocked female farmers out of commercial markets and in some instances, female farmers are selling produce to bigger companies under the name of a male relative or spouse, as they do not have the requisite certifications.
This gender disparity is not only present in the agricultural context but also in the overall St. Lucian labor force. The rate of unemployment in St. Lucia amongst women (24.7%) is slightly higher than that of men (20. 1%) but two thirds of small businesses in St. Lucia are owned by women (many of whom are in the agricultural sector). We believe that by giving female farmers access to digitalization, it will bring them to the forefront of modern agricultural techniques in St. Lucia and would in turn would change the perception of gender dimensions in agriculture. Finally, the project would marry both the old and new economies of agriculture and tourism to support each other. St. Lucian rural women’s access to ICTs could level the playing field in the agricultural sector and open up economic opportunities that were otherwise unforeseen.
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