Women farmers in Pakistan received helping hands last month from Caritas Pakistan, the Catholic bishops’ arm for social development.
The agency sponsored a four-day workshop to help women farmers
develop their skills and economic competitiveness, with a focus on
“Empowering and strengthening the skills of women plays an important
role in community development and agriculture is one of the important
sectors,” Amjad Gulzar, executive director of Caritas Pakistan, told CNA
Gulzar said the event aimed to bring together women farmers and
beneficiaries of women empowerment groups and entrepreneurship programs,
providing a platform for them “to voice their issues and gather
relevant learning skills from one another.”
The third Women Farmers Conference, held in Lahore Aug. 16-18,
brought together 140 women from across Pakistan. This year’s theme was
“Empowering Women, Empowering Pakistan.”
Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi delivered a message of
encouragement to the delegates. He emphasized promoting the rights and
opportunities of “the most ignored section of women like ‘Haris’
(peasants), small farmers and tenants for their integrated development.”
The participants also shared their positive approaches, methods, and challenges during the inter-group discussion session.
Razia Mushtaq, a farmer from Sargodha (about 80 miles northwest of
Faisalabad), shared her experience using a biofuel plant and recycling
cattle dung to produce clean renewable energy for cooking. She reuses
waste slurry on the fields to renew soil fertility and increase
The women farmers composed a final resolution highlighting their
commitment to learning.
They also created an action plan for various
purposes: mobilizing women in response to climate change; training other
women; gaining and disseminating information to others; and promoting
sustainable agriculture and home grown vegetables to minimize
malnutrition and food insecurity.
Gulzar praised the important role of the women in family and
agriculture in Pakistani society. Highlighting the challenges faced by
rural farmers, he encouraged them to update their skills and be open to
learn new organic methods that will benefit the economy and healthy
“This event is a tribute to the contribution of women engaged in
different sectors,” Gulzar added. “Caritas Pakistan expects that more
annual programs will be carved out to ensure that the workshop and
training will benefit women and the development of the community.”
Fouzia Waqar, who chairs the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women,
was a speaker at the event. She pointed to a commission report that
highlights the 70 percent of rural women who are involved in the
agricultural sector, mainly as cotton and vegetable pickers.
their disproportionate numbers, women receive less than 10 percent of
government benefits for subsidized seeds and fertilizers, agricultural
training and other activities.
Summera Saleem, a senior program officer at the Aurat Foundation,
said many rural women are not legal owners of their livestock and face
other problems, such as illiteracy.
The speakers said that women in rural areas work from 16 to 18 hours
but are underpaid.
They receive half the wages as male farmers, and
child marriage is also a problem for some.
The speakers explained different opportunities available to the women
farmers and also spoke about climate change’s effect on women’s social
and economic lives.
The Caritas representatives showcased various ongoing initiatives and
contributions of Caritas Pakistan that have helped beneficiaries
regardless of race or religion.