|Through her agricultural work, Liliana seeks to make women protagonists in Colombia’s vast rural areas.|
|San José, 15 October 2021 (IICA). Colombian cocoa producer Liliana Jiménez Molina, a leading advocate for the rights of rural women, received the “Leader of Rurality in the Americas” award, bestowed by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) in recognition of her work to support rural women’s rights, prioritize agricultural activities and improve the quality of life in rural areas.|
The Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero, made the announcement during a ceremony organized by the specialized agency for agricultural and rural development in commemoration of the International Day of Rural Women, which included a forum on the “Priorities of the gender agenda”. During the ceremony, Jiménez Molina was also appointed as a Delegate of the Hemispheric Platform for Rural Women, which was recently launched by IICA.
Available in Spanish, English, Portuguese and French at https://mujeresrurales.iica.int/, the Hemispheric Platform for Rural Women is a web space that will enable this segment of the population to create networks, and provide access to forums and training opportunities. It will also allow rural women to share successful experiences that have contributed to their empowerment, and showcase the key role they play in rural development and the improvement of the quality of life in their territories.
In addition to appointing Liliana Jiménez Molina as a “Leader of Rurality in the Americas”, IICA will present the Colombian producer with the “Soul of Rurality” award, under an initiative to pay tribute to men and women who are leaving their mark and making a difference in the countryside.
In addition to receiving the “Soul of Rurality” award, the Leaders of Rurality highlighted by IICA are
The Leaders of Rurality will be bestowed with the “Soul of Rurality” award and will also be invited to participate in various advisory bodies of the specialized agency for rural and agricultural development.
“This award pays tribute to those who are playing a unique dual role: guaranteeing food and nutritional security, by producing under all circumstances, as well as protecting the biodiversity of the planet. It will also emphasize their capacity to be positive role models in rural areas of the region”, stated Otero.
Under the Leaders of Rurality program, IICA will also strive to ensure that the recognition will enable the awardees to establish linkages with state, civil society and private sector organizations to gain support for their causes.
IICA is working with its 34 Delegations in the Americas to select the #LeadersOfRurality.
Colombian Liliana Jiménez Molina left the city for the countryside and now works to empower rural women
Bogotá. About 10 years ago, Colombian Liliana Jiménez Molina and her family decided they wanted to change their urban lifestyle and move to the countryside. She knew close to nothing about rural life. In fact, she had grown up in the city of Medellín and then moved to the capital, Bogotá, where she worked as a communications consultant for companies.
However, following a health complication, her husband was advised by doctors to change his lifestyle, which led them to take the plunge and settle on a small farm in Nilo, a municipality in the department of Cundinamarca, 150 kilometers from Bogotá.
Liliana has come a long way since then, dedicating her time to growing organic cocoa. She currently chairs the Board of Directors of an association of small-scale producers, PROSOAGRO. Since 2016, she has held the title of “María del Campo”, a name that identifies Colombian cocoa farming around the world and highlights the role played by women, and which is bestowed by the National Federation of Cocoa Growers (FEDECACAO).
“Lots of people thought we were crazy when we decided to move to the countryside. We made that decision with the conviction to grow cocoa using an organic approach, because our family is very concerned about environmental issues—it runs through our veins. In any case, it is one thing to romanticize living in the countryside close to nature, and another to do it as a woman”, she remarked.
Liliana quickly began to experience firsthand the obstacles that women face in developing their potential in rural areas. She knew then that she wanted to understand the reasons for this reality, in order to combat it. “I wanted to understand why women had less access to health, education and, opportunities in general. Associations in rural areas are primarily made up of men; women’s participation is limited and there is no gender approach”.
It was a project launched in 2014 and funded by Canada’s international cooperation agency, which provided 120 women leaders from five departments in Colombia with training, that enabled Liliana to understand the depth of discrimination against rural women, who face barriers with respect to land ownership and access to credit opportunities, while also bearing the burden of household chores and often falling victims to domestic violence.
Liliana remarked that IICA’s efforts “in recent years to include rural women’s issues in its agenda has been very important. Equal opportunities do not exist. Women do not form part of organizations, they are unaware of their rights and their role in the household often absorbs them to the point that they are unable to engage in projects outside of the home. Much has been said and many laws exist, but it is time to make decisions to bridge the rural gaps that affect women”.
According to Liliana, in recent years, following the peace agreements between the State and the guerrilla, many Colombians began to see rural areas as areas of opportunity.
“People began to return to the countryside. In fact, in cocoa farming there are lots of neo-farmers, or people who left the city. I visit many fairs and I always meet people who say that their dream is to live in the countryside, and they ask how to grow cocoa. I believe that Colombians are beginning to understand that valuing the countryside and farming families is fundamental to generate a future and, in that sense, it is key that we generate opportunities for women and young people to become entrepreneurs”, she explained.
“Cocoa farming -he adds- is a great example. In 2016 there was a census that showed that 38,000 families were engaged in cocoa; a new study in 2019 revealed that the number had grown to 52,000 families and today we are surely already more. We have cocoa in 30 of Colombia’s 32 departments and we need more opportunities to open markets to continue growing. Cocoa has established itself as one of the post-conflict crops and has transformed the lives of many families, who used to grow coca because they had no other alternative, and now they can feel that they are making a dignified, decent and peaceful life with a legal crop”.
Rural women and protagonists
Through her agricultural work, Liliana seeks to make women protagonists in Colombia’s vast rural areas. And she notes that a few things have changed recently: “Today I do leadership and empowerment workshops and I see women who are increasingly clear about their life projects, who want to develop more autonomously and are very interested in training. Women want to participate, make decisions and have opportunities to continue growing”.
The obstacles are huge, because she says that most of the women work on family farms and, as they do not have title deeds in their name, their participation in decision-making spaces is limited. In addition to problems in accessing land, they have difficulties in obtaining financing or training. An internet connection,” Liliana warns, “continues to be a privilege for rural areas in Colombia, since the cost is very high, and inequality gaps persist.
Liliana is convinced that rural women are her inspiration today: “If I had not moved to the countryside, I would not have met such wonderful women; feeling like a rural woman makes me feel very good and I want to continue contributing wherever I can to help bring about change.
Her project is to deepen this path: “We must continue working to develop our life projects, which begin with our personal dreams, projecting them to our families and creating community. Rural women have to work and persevere for what we want, believing in ourselves and supporting each other. That is why I especially value the Hemispheric Platform for Rural Women recently launched by IICA, as a contribution to sharing experiences, knowledge and forging alliances. My dream is that equal opportunities will no longer be just talk, but will become a reality.