March 2, 2012
Ana Chã spoke to more than 100 people on Tuesday as part of the panel, “Voices of Rural Women,” co-sponsored by United Methodist Women and World Vision International, a side event of the Commission on the Status of Women. “Brazil is becoming a big economy, yet the poor people are still there,” Ms. Chã.
Ms. Chã reported that ‘land grabbing’ in Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world, is prevalent. “Big business is buying land in Brazil for companies to produce products, like soy beans, and then exporting the products,” Ms. Chã said. “And Brazil is buying companies in Africa.”
Ms. Chã’s is concerned for rural women and their exposure to pesticides. Ms. Chã reported, “Since 2009, Brazil is the world’s largest consumer of agricultural pesticides.” Brazil, she reported, uses about a billion liters of pesticides in one year, which she estimated, “is about 5.2 liters of pesticides per person per year.”
Women are the people in communities who care for the environment and for the health of neighbors and children. “The countryside is a place of life; people can live with dignity. There’s another way to live: in the countryside with joy and happiness,” Ms. Chã said.
Rose Cunningham would agree. Ms. Cunningham, a farmer who organizes indigenous women to end hunger and violence in Nicaragua, spoke at the Thursday afternoon panel sponsored by Madre and hosted by United Methodist Women.
Ms. Cunningham remembered her happiness as a child watering vegetables and sharing chores with neighbors. “If you are my neighbor, you get to be a part of my family,” Ms. Cunningham said. She defined wealth as sharing resources “in solidarity, harmony and respect.” Like Ms. Chã, Ms. Cunningham advocated for the self-determination, access to resources and community life of small-scale farmers.
Today, Ms. Chã leaves the international meetings of rural women in New York City today to return to Brazil, where she will advocate with the Landless Workers’ Movement, celebrating and demonstrating on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2012. “We are demanding public policies, advocating for pregnant women in rural communities, and denouncing agribusiness, which goes against the small farmers.”
United Methodist Women, too, supports a global network of rural women as they strive for access to dignity, health and, even, happiness. “Voices on Rural Women” also included United Methodist Women-sponsored panelists from Zambia, Japan and Sierra Leone.
Learn more about Women’s Division Statement to the 56th Commission on the Status of Women, which among other issues, recommends that nations: “Protect small-scale farms and cooperatives and create access to finance for women farmers for the improvement of agriculture and better nutrition.”
Mary Beth Coudal is a writer for the United Methodist Church Women’s Division.