Miriam Nobre is an agronomist. She joined the SOF team in 1993, developing training and research activities in areas related to feminist economy, solidarity economy, agroecology and food sovereignty. Miriam was co-ordinator of the International Secretariat in the World March of Women between 2006 and 2013. During that period, SOF held several joint actions with La Via Campesina, such as the Nyeleni Food Sovereignty Forum held in Mali in 2007. Currently, Miriam co-ordinates SOF's work team in Vale do Ribeira. She is also a member of the Working Group of Women in the National Agroecology Coordination.
Photo: Cinthia Darenho


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Feminism, food sovereignty and agroecology are inextricably linked for the Brazilian feminist organisation SOF – Sempreviva Organizacão Feminista. We wanted Miriam Nobre, SOF Co-ordinator for the Ribeira Valley, a region in the south of the State of São Paulo, to tell us what the situation is in her country regarding the rights of rural women, what the Brazilian government is doing to strengthen these rights, and what role SOF plays in this context.

Ms Nobre, what is the gender equality situation in Brazil’s rural areas?
Women who want to continue farming, return to farming or become farmers face a number of challenges. The first is access to farmland. In the last 20 years, rural women's movements have made important achievements in women's rights regarding agrarian reform processes, such as joint ownership of lots. Yet women still have access to less land and worse quality land. According to the latest agriculture census conducted in 2006, the average size of farms run or owned by women was just 38 per cent of the average owned property. There were twice as many landless women producers compared with the total number of producers under the same conditions. Within a family-run establishment, women tend to have their power of decision concentrated in the area around the house and have little influence on decisions concerning what and how to plant over the entire farmland.

Are indigenous women particularly disadvantaged?
Indigenous women as well as women from traditional communities – quilombolas or riverside communities – lack secure titles to the land and have problems removing occupants from their land. At the present time, they are threatened by the repeal of or increased difficulty in exercising rights won in the 1988 Constitution, especially in the federal legislature. They are struggling to strengthen their voice within their communities to ensure that their wishes and land management projects are considered.

In the education and health fields too, rural women and girls are often in a worse position than their male counterparts ...
Rural women who work as farmers or in non-agricultural activities face particular difficulties here. Although female schooling has increased in the countryside, functional illiteracy still persists among older women. Moreover, of the women completing secondary or higher education, very few take up agricultural careers.

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