Zhivka Gjurchinovska is a woman who has no problem driving a tractor. She is a diligent farmer and a mother of three. They live in the village of Tumchevishte, in the Gostivar area in the northwestern part of North Macedonia.
Gjurchinovska has been a farmer for the past 20 years and a professional farmer in the past 11 year. She produces corn, wheat, beans, potatoes and other vegetables, but she also raises cows. She and her husband, who, as she says, is a great supporter of her ambitions, convinced by their children, not long ago ecided to start growing hazelnuts. Now they grow three types of hazelnuts on 8 000 m2 of leased land.
She says that growing hazelnuts requires patience, as the first crop happens 7 or 8 years after the planting.
“We got the first round of hazelnuts two years ago. Growing hazelnuts requires lot of diligent work. We are still picking them manually, from the hazel bush or from the ground. Then we manually sort the different species and dry them. It depends on the buyer, but we mostly sell the hazelnuts in the shell” says Gjurchinovska, adding that she expects her workload will ease in the future.
She had received a grant from the National Agriculture and Rural Development Program for professional female farmers and ordered a machine for sorting and cracking the hazelnuts.
“When the machine arrives, it will be easier, a huge part of the process that is done manually will be eliminated. But due to the COVID pandemic, the machine will arrive late,” Gjurchinovska explains.
She stresses that the financial support for women in the rural areas i.e. the financial support made to measure – in accordance with the needs of the women farmers, is very important. According to her, what is necessary is a gender-awarenesse budgeting in the agriculture and the rural development.
“This way, by providing an economic boost for the women from the rural areas, it will provide these women with a better life that will give them all the ground necessary to become equal with men, regardless of the place of residence,” Gjurchinovska pinpoints.
Apart from the financial problems that women farmers are facing, another great problem hindering them to successfully do their jobs is the infrastructure.
“If we want to motivate younger women to choose agriculture, favorable conditions must be created first. For instance, in our village we lack a kindergarten. The elementary school is only up to fifth grade. There is no sewage. We lack public transportation that will get us to the city. There are no transportation means when one has to visit a doctor or to go to the Town Hall. We all use cars and we try to do up to three tasks at once when we have to do something outside of the villlage,” Gjuchinovska complains. She stresses that if these conditions are met for the young women now, it will make their lives much easier than her’s in the past 20 years.
According to the report of the Rural Coalition for Gender Equality in Agriculture and the Rural Development, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out to the surface all of the challenges that the women in rural areas have been facing with and provides a realistic picture of gender equality in the rural areas.
“The negative effects from the health and economic crisis in the country caused by COVID-19 are influencing the women in rural areas since their scope of work is now increased both at home and in the field, and their effort is still not valued enough. Globally, the women are most often included in the informal economy and their effort is not recognized and paid,” the report points out.
According to the Rural Coalition, what is even more alarming is the fact that only 38% of the women in rural areas are considered economically active, and the remaining percentage is the part of the so-called informal economy, where the status of the women in terms of the health care and social welfare is not regulated. Due to this, the gap in the present discrimination is increasing and is making the women from rural areas even more vulnerable.
In the analysis conducted by this civil organization, titled “Where does the road of gender-responsible budgeting in the agricultural and rural development sector lead to?“ it is stated that out of a total of 177 845 professional farmers, 18 632 are women, and it poses a bitter problem for them that they do not own any property themselves. This poses an administrative obstacle in the process of loan approval or receiving any benefits regarding the support programs and similar things.