Turning policy recommendations into practice: North Macedonia fosters the economic empowerment of women in agriculture

For the first time in North Macedonia, registered women agricultural producers will have an opportunity to benefit from financial support which aims to strengthen their agro-businesses and reduce persisting inequalities among women and men in the sector.


Open market during the International Day of the Rural Women 2018, Village of Kuchkovo, Skopje. Photo: UN Women/Ognen Dimitrovski
Open market during the International Day of Rural Women 2018, Village of Kuchkovo, Skopje. Photo: UN Women/Ognen Dimitrovski

In November 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy of North Macedonia launched a new measure that provides an opportunity for women farmers to benefit from financial support and improve their economic situation.

“Gender inequality is an important topic for every society, and it is particularly evident in the agricultural sector and rural areas. Agriculture is seen as a men-dominated sector, yet as a driver of growth and development, this sector should provide greater recognition to women and their important role in agriculture,” said Andrijana Velevska, State Advisor for Rural Development, during the launch press conference. The piloting phase of the measure aims to reach 100 registered women agricultural producers, with the prospect for expanding in 2020.

The new measure is a result of the collaborative effort of UN Women and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy (MAFWE) to develop gender-responsive policies and budgets in the agricultural sector and empower women farmers and their agro-businesses.

This example of gender-responsive policymaking for supporting women in agriculture proves how gender responsive budgeting works in practice and how public funds could be used to meaningfully improve the quality of life of the most excluded groups in society.

Agriculture is an important economic sector, representing around 8 percent of the overall Gross Domestic Product in North Macedonia. According to the State Statistical Office of North Macedonia, 39 percent of the country’s workers in agriculture are women. Yet, these women have limited access to land and resources, and less than 10 percent of agricultural holdings are managed by women.

Open market during the International Day of  Rural Women 2019. Photo: UN Women
Open market during the International Day of Rural Women 2019. Photo: UN Women

Rural women often face barriers for achieving their full potential, given restrictive traditional practices, policies and segmented labour markets. Therefore, gender mainstreaming agricultural and rural development policies contributes to the empowerment of women, making them active agents in the promotion of agricultural productivity and the socio-economic progress of the entire society.

A recent study supported by UN Women and led by the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food in North Macedonia revealed crucial findings of the position of women in rural areas by measuring the level of empowerment of women in agriculture. According to the study, besides being under-represented as managers of agricultural holdings and owners of land and property, women’s role in decision-making related to agricultural production remains undervalued. The traditional gender roles and relations have perpetuated an unequal position of women working in rural areas and agriculture. Only 9.65 percent of women have a leading role in decision making activities related to land, while 50 percent of women landowners are not active in the decision-making process related to the land or agricultural production.

The study brought to the forefront of policymakers’ attention the importance of reviewing the policies for agriculture and rural development from a gender perspective, thus inspiring the establishment of the first working group on gender equality and gender budgeting within MAFWE. The working group, representing all relevant institutions in advancing rural and agricultural development, academia and civil society, managed to position itself as a trusted advisor and advocated for policy changes and increased allocations for women in rural areas.

With UN Women support under the Memorandum of Understanding with the MAFWE, the working group supported the development of the first measure for support of women under the National Program for Agriculture and Rural Development (2018-2022), and setting of needs responsive criteria and provisions to enable rural women to truly benefit from the programme.

The initiative is part of the UN Women project “Promoting Gender Responsive Policies and Budgets: Towards Transparent, Inclusive and Accountable Governance in the Republic of North Macedonia”, financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Swedish International Development Agency - Sida.

More info could be found at: http://www.mzsv.gov.mk/Events.aspx IdRoot=1&IdLanguage=1&News=813