Sunday, 14 August 2016

The women who feed us: Gender empowerment (or lack thereof) in rural Southern Brazil

Volume 47, Part A, October 2016, Pages 31–40

  • American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20016, USA


Changing dynamics on family farms in the South of Brazil affect women’s empowerment.
Three strategies are analyzed: the family farm, urban migration, and rural factory work.
In this specific context, women are most empowered by urban spheres of labor.
We may seek to emulate characteristics of urban labor in family farms to increase empowerment.


This article focuses on understanding the question: what do recent studies on the modernization of Brazilian agriculture tell us about the changes in gender dynamics as a traditional family farm moves to alternative strategies for reproduction and how do these respective roles empower or disempower women? To understand this issue, this article determines what kinds of roles women occupy in traditional family farms, as well as the urban roles they take on after the phenomenon of pluriactivity manifests, and evaluates these roles in an empowerment index. The analysis shows that the family farm is the least empowering option of the strategies I identified (and urban migration the most empowering), and that we can seek to emulate the empowering qualities of urban employment within family farms to maximize their future empowerment. A possible pathway to empowering women on family farms includes feminist support for the institutionalization of programs that make gender dynamics more equal within family farms.


  • Gender empowerment;
  • Labor;
  • Family farm;
  • Feminism;
  • Pluriactivity;
  • Brazil
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