“We need to start from women to break down barriers and poverty”: this is the main theme of a meeting organised by Oxfam and IO woman during the Women's Weeks. Last year she collected the voices of the women of rural communities in Ecuador in which Oxfam operates. How, in your opinion, can women be the engine of economic and social change?
I think we need to start from women for everything, not only to break down barriers and poverty but in general, because the world has been malfunctioning, so far; it is a jammed mechanism that needs to reset. In particular in areas like the ones I visited with Oxfam, where there is little or nothing and men do not collaborate and wage war, drink, and cause more harm instead of being useful, and only women can take charge of their lives and those of their children and start creating the conditions to live in an acceptable way. It is a reality that Oxfam has made possible for many small communities. Of course, it should be applied on a larger scale, but it is in small communities that it can germinate and spread. Women can teach other women to cultivate and then nourish their children and themselves and sell what they grow.
How crucial are training and access to education for girls in this kind of context?
It is fundamental. What I learned by travelling with Oxfam is that female illiteracy is a huge problem. Until the past generation, girls had no access to education, and only boys studied and then there is the problem of violence against girls, who risk being raped when crossing fields to get to school.
We need to make it possible for girls to access education even to learn how to count, to manage their household accounts as well their harvests when they grow up. This is the real problem of mothers, you can give them better seeds and tools to learn how to cultivate, but they also need to be able to count, to keep a small budget of what they do. What remains is that all the mothers I have met have one dream: that their daughters can study and change their lives because they were never able to do so.
Women represent 43% of the agricultural labour force, but they are often the poorest and most vulnerable subjects in many parts of the world. According to you, what are the priorities to be addressed to rectify this contradiction?
Unfortunately we have to talk about priorities in the plural form: education, not only schooling, but also in the field of agriculture is one of these, and also the cultivation techniques and having access to better seeds. Then, unfortunately, but this is a longer task, it would be essential to have more women in the police forces and judiciary system. In these countries, where there are mainly men, a woman enduring violence has no rights, no defense and is always the victim, it is written on her forehead. Their abusers, regardless if husbands or neighbours, are hardly ever imprisoned.
The short film by Maite Bulgari, “Hungry for waste”, will be presented in a preview during the “I have seen women ...” meeting organised by Oxfam at Expo Milano 2015, a reflection of hunger and waste, two sides of the same coin, two extremes of a global paradox. In your opinion which are the concrete actions to take in the fight against food waste?
I think schooling is fundamental. Parents are unable to educate, to teach because they themselves had no schooling. On the issue of food, there is great ignorance even in our developed countries and there is no awareness. If we think, for example, about what we are triggering when we eat meat indiscriminately and therefore to the C02 emissions and the pollution of aquifers. There is no awareness on the importance of the variety of the plant world. If we divert the resources reserved to breed animals for slaughter to cultivating, there would be more food for everyone. Schools should devote an hour a week to civic and food education, teach how to preserve things for others. When I was little we were aware of the many children who nothing to eat, today children grow up thinking they can eat anything at any time and their idea is that food resources are infinite. It is not so, unfortunately, they are not distributed properly.
Among the women you met in Ecuador, is there is one who changed your way of looking at this type of reality?
It was the sum of meetings that hit me, not just one. In one week we visited three different places, one in the Amazon and two in the Andes. In these places, where there is a small rural economy, men have depopulated the countryside and now there are only women, children and old people. Men are a calamity here, when they return they rape, beat, and drink and spend money not for the family, but for their pleasures. Everything is placed in the strength of these women who are willing to learn, to grow and pick up their lives without having to depend on others. The women I met are extremely satisfied and proud when they learn, when they do so hiding away from their husbands, when they meet in the community and this is the possible paradox because the men have left, Oxfam was able to operate there because there were no men.
On the occasion of the Women's Weeks of Expo Milano 2015
she was among the writers, film makers and Italian entrepreneurs who participated in the event organised by Oxfam and IO Donna at the Cascina Triulza on June 29.