Raquel Reynoso is a social worker by training and the President of the Asociación Servicios Educativos Rurales (SER), a Peruvian organisation and ILC member that promotes human rights for rural populations, with an emphasis on women.
As of this year, Raquel has also joined the ILC Gender Expert Network, a safe space for ILC members to come together and share knowledge, skills and resources on gender justice.
We had the chance to talk to her about the work of SER and how the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on women’s access to land and food security.
How did COVID affect women?
Around the world, land serves as a foundation for security, shelter, income and livelihoods. But rights to land are not equitably distributed to all. This is especially true for women.
“In Latin America, women and girls often depend on male partners or relatives for access to land,” explains Raquel. “With the pandemic, many women lost their husbands or male family members and found themselves in an even more vulnerable position, suddenly with no ability to claim rights over their land and only source of livelihood.”
Food security also became a prominent issue for many families. With Food Distribution Centres closed due to the pandemic, families relied heavily on women for support, as stereotypical caregivers. This forced women to go out and look for informal work which increased their chances of catching the virus, putting them and their health at risk.
Raquel also describes how indigenous and rural women especially had to take on more caregiving responsibilities due to the pandemic. This was often because distant relatives who had migrated to urban areas were now returning to their rural towns, adding extra pressure onto the women to take care of them.
How did SER help?
Through the pandemic, SER’s focused on supporting women at the community level by developing a project on family farming. “Women are often the ones growing food because family gardens are close to their homes,” explains Raquel. “SER gave them a safe space where they could grow food together without the risk of catching the virus.”
The project enabled women to have a direct relationship with the land while giving them an alternative to informal work, which shielded them from the virus. Working in the community gardens also reinforced women’s role as custodians of traditional knowledge, as they also grew medicinal plants that could be of use to the whole community.
By joining the ILC Gender Expert Network, Raquel hopes to be able to share her experience of working with rural women in the Andean region of Peru. “I would like to learn more about experiences of working on gender equality issues in rural areas,” she explains. “And most importantly, I would like to understand how to engage rural men in the process.”
Building upon Raquel's experience and knowledge, as well as on the wide expertise of the members of the ILC Gender Experts Network, ILC can grow as a gender just coalition. We trust that across the ILC membership there is a treasure of wisdom that we want to share with other members. This is why we created this network of gender experts and we will keep featuring them through dedicated blog posts while organising learning events for and with the Gender Experts.
The interview was conducted by ILC gender intern Solomon Hayes