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Inspirational idea: Promoting gender equality in European agriculture and rural areas

Horizon Europe project SWIFT seeks to make the importance of women in agriculture more visible

A large group of people sitting in a discussion group outdoors
Photo credits - Mar Calvet, Stefanie Lemke

SWIFT is a Horizon Europe project to advance gender equality in farming and rural areas in Europe from an ‘intersectional, feminist and human rights-based perspective’.

“Despite the crucial contributions of women to European agriculture, they remain discriminated against in different ways. SWIFT will analyse and amplify women-led innovations and empower those acting for change in farming and rural areas." Marta Rivera-Ferre, project coordinator

Women remain under-represented in agricultural associations and, as a result, the take-up of their perspectives and rights in policies, programmes and legal frameworks is limited. The low levels of female farm ownership or lack of access to land are indicative of persistent structural inequalities in rural areas. According to the OECD, the prevalence of rural women in informal and precarious employment, lacking social protection or pension schemes, could potentially lead to women being vulnerable to increased levels of poverty. Faced with this context, gender mainstreaming has become an important principle of the Common Agricultural Policy. The current CAP Strategic Plans (2023-2027) require a gender equality approach and the increased participation of women in farming, in addition to the assessment of women’s position in agriculture, forestry and rural areas and the challenges they face.

Therefore, SWIFT will set up shared spaces and exchanges among 19 agricultural organisations and initiatives in Europe, Brazil and the US which are working on women-led innovations. This will facilitate social learning and enable the co-creation of new approaches and social networks between different local groups. They will promote the use of videos, podcasts, photovoice and other participatory methodologies that facilitate the co-construction of knowledge. This includes tools to reframe agricultural and rural policies. One of these tools for example is gender-responsive budgeting, examining a whole budget cycle from design and allocation to spending and monitoring with the participation of individuals and communities affected by the budget evaluated.

Since the start of the project in 2023, the partners have been establishing collaborations between the network members which will be maintained over the coming years. Each of the organisations involved bring different experiences, perspectives and skills to the table. For example, La Via Campesina Austria is a women’s group which is part of the ÖBV (Austria mountain farmers' and peasants' organisation): “Our vision is a good life for all. We are working and fighting for self-determination of women in agriculture – on their farms, in their communities and for just and feminist policies (interconnection of agricultural, climate, rural, women policies etc.)” (quote)

The Sindicato Labrego Galego, Spain, is another group involved. They support small local farms, many of which are managed by women: “As a feminist organisation, we consider equality to be fundamental in the organisation and we specifically defend women’s rights at all levels.” (quote)

SWIFT strives to contribute to adapting policy and governance framework to build alternative narratives around food that can boost women’s roles in the sustainable development of rural areas and innovation in farming. SWIFT will further support the capacity of rural women to innovate for change and to find solutions to challenges faced by rural women, through the creation and strengthening of networks.