Commentary


Did you know that the 15th of October was the International Day of Rural Women? To celebrate, I thought I would post some facts and figures provided by others about community empowerment when women own land.

Since 2008, the day has recognized “the contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty”.

Supporting women in rural areas has multiple social and economic benefits, including;

  • Women’s empowerment benefits not only women themselves, but also their families and communities.
  • Farm productivity increases when women have access to agricultural inputs and relevant knowledge.
  • Women are dynamic organizers and participants in grass-roots organizations, and are effective in promoting and sustaining local self-help initiatives.
  • Malnutrition and mortality among both boys and girls are reduced when girls obtain greater access to primary and secondary education.
  • There is a strong correlation between women’s literacy and lower HIV/AIDS infection rates.
  • Women have a strong track record as prudent savers and borrowers in microfinance programmes, using income to benefit the entire household.

“Investing” (note the economic bias in the language) contributes to food security because women work longer hours than men.

According to the World Bank, 75 per cent of the poor in developing countries live in rural areas.11 While women work the land, they often do not hold formal and clear land titles. Less than two per cent of land in the developing world is owned by women, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).12 A lack of rights over land makes women extremely vulnerable to eviction and negatively affects their economic options. (WomenWatch)

At a seminar last week in honour of the day, researchers spoke about gender and land acquisition in rural agricultural communities.

The researchers also found that although many women spoke of ‘owning land,’ they, in fact, did not have any real legal rights to it.  Many of the joint-ownership agreements between spouses only included the husbands’ name in paperwork or granted him priority over his wife when making financial decisions.  Even land inherited from the woman’s family was often signed over to the husband without her knowledge. And in many cases, the degree to which a wife had legal protection of land rights depended entirely on the type of marriage arrangement she had with her husband.

Even in a country like Australia, I would suspect that fewer women own land than men, but in India, 70% of the female workforce is engaged in agriculture yet only 10% of women farmers own land.

Despite this attention given to the situation of rural women, discrimination remains rampant, from access to education and health care, to access to and control over land and other productive resources, to opportunities for employment, income-generating activities, and participation in public life. The rights and priorities of rural women continue to be insufficiently addressed – a situation that the International Day of Rural Women will, it is hoped, contribute to remedying.

There are many ways to share what you know with others. Here are some alternatives to traditional education that are either free, extremely cheap, or rely on some form of barter or trade.

Shareable features an article this week on a Freeskool in Ithaca, NY:

With classes like Mushroom Hunting, Bike Repair, Know Your Rights with Debtors, and D.I.Y. Movie Making, it’s a refreshing variety of completely free classes for people of all ages. Started only a few years ago and run entirely by volunteers, the Freeskool gives the community an opportunity to share their skills and knowledge.

Another venture, also featured on Shareable, is described as a ‘pop-up’ school, which for a month offered classes for barter. Anyone can sign-up to teach, and the list of classes is esoteric and exciting. Even better, each class has a corresponding blog post, which acts as a perfect refresher if you’ve forgotten some of the basics. From organising an arts festival to caviar. Here’s a quote from Elizabeth, who taught the Caviar Demystified course:

I think Trade School is beautiful – from a design perspective, from the curation and execution. It should live on as a platform for individuals who can’t afford school to have a place to be inspired and then potentially teach too. Or think critically about what they can talk about – It successfully inspires human engagement and education.

Other formats that I have seen include the School of Everything. I signed up, but I haven’t had any bites yet. It may be simply because the site hasn’t had much exposure in Australia (be warned, it loads very slowly). Or maybe the concept is still a bit out there for Aussies? Here’s a lovely posting from their site anyway, which will go some way to explaining the ethos behind the concept.

As we decide what next for School of Everything we’ve been doing a little bit of soul searching and thinking about what we truly believe in (as well as working hard, being nice to people and the power of good chili sauce). Here’s what we’ve come up with – would be great to know what you think.

We believe…

  • The real world is better than the internet. Step away from your computer please. Getting out and trying new things is better than being sat at a desk all day.
  • All subjects are important. Learning is learning, and learning is good. Knowing how to rewire a plug is just as valuable as understanding inverse trigonometric functions.
  • Everyone has something to teach. Everyone, yes everyone, has something they can teach someone else.
  • Everyone has their own way of learning. It’s better to learn in the way you want to. You know what suits you best.
  • Learning is better with friends. People are brilliant, inspiring, generous and smart. Being with others makes it easier and enjoyable to learn more.
  • You should never stop learning. You can keep learning whatever your age, far beyond your school days.
  • Education shouldn’t be expensive. With a bit of ingenuity you can learn new things without spending lots of money.
  • Qualifications are overrated. A good education is about the things you learn along the way, not a fancy bit of paper.
  • All of these projects and initiatives are inspiring. I’d love to start some sort of venture based on these models here in Hobart.

    Here in Tassie, the weather has become a bit more unpredictable; wet and windy with a sprinkling of snow. Yes, we are very nearly at the official end of winter.

    The comfort food I have been indulging in has broadened my waistline. My evenings are still mostly spent in. I sleep long, but awaken refreshed.

    But the odd springlike day has me thinking of upping my exercise and downing my alcohol and food consumption. I tend to crave more fresh greens and less the steamed ones. I start to dream of summer fruit. Not so much of the tropical fruits, but rather of cherries and berries, which will be plentiful in the Tasmanian summer.

    I have been observing seasonal changes in my surroundings and wondering what it would be like if I mirrored these seasonal patterns in my own life.

    If I lived seasonally, perhaps I wouldn’t be working every week. Perhaps sometimes I would work in the office or studio a number of days in a row and then break for a month to tend gardens and friendships. I probably wouldn’t adhere to a nine-to-five routine. Possibly, if I lived seasonally, I’d spend my winters somewhere warmer, returning each spring to Tasmania.

    Here are links to a few websites that discuss seasonal living:

    Living With The Seasons: What Are You Doing Right Now? A nice post about seasonal living, Ziggy ends by asking: “What would it look like if we all lived more seasonally? What would you be doing right now?”

    James likes to get his gear off, and he also talks about living seasonally here: James’ Diary by James Strawbridge

    Cooking seasonally: Naturally Simple Blog

    Living in Season: slow time, seasonal celebrations, holidays This is a whole website devoted to seasons, and while I’m not really fond of the design, it features some interesting recipes and links (for example Nocino or Walnut Liqueur!)

    If you have seasonal living experiences you have blogged about or would like to share, please email me enquiry[at]herenowcollective.com.au or post a comment on the blog.

    red treeplaceblog’s most recent post about maps talks about how artists are drawing on mapping conventions to question territory and re-imagine place.

    In the daily life of cities, people are always on the move and always heading somewhere in the random harriedness of the streets; passengers anxiously straining to catch sight of their bus heading towards them. Looking into these works, there is the lure of other kinds of movement – of journeying elsewhere – while simultaneously straining to know our place. In tracing their pathways, we might end up in the middle of nowhere, though not before exploring that unquenchable longing to be if not somewhere then somewhere else.

    I’ve said it before, mapping is so hot right now, and it seems that the link between urban living and mapping is particularly strong.

    Last post, I talked about the work of fallen fruit and a project that I love, public fruit maps.  I also wrote that I would be looking at some Australian sites and projects that use food to build community. While it seems that Melbourne plays host to a particularly vibrant food-community-activism scheme, I couldn’t find much in the smaller cities at all, and sadly, there also aren’t many that involve art activism. I’m not sure what that says about our artistic community.

    Certainly here in Hobart I haven’t heard of a formal food mapping project, but local knowledge about food-sharing is around. So far, by talking to locals, we’ve discovered the location of trees laden with apples in autumn, and fresh hops for beer-making.

    So here are some Aussie examples from the web:

    The VEIL Food Map is an online, urban food production map of Melbourne. Examples of urban food production include: community gardens, commercial production and market gardens, shared private gardens, and food produced on public space.

    The Sharehood is all about sharing resources within your neighbourhood and helps you to meet and make friends with people in your local area. All sorts of things can be shared, such as sewing machines, vegetables, wheelbarrows, tools, cars, books and computers. Skills can be shared too: gardening help, bike fixing, accountancy, language skills, childminding, how to make wine or dance the tango.

    Live Local is a place to share stories about improving our communities. Use the website to document your neighbourhood experiments – your stories about your experiences and adventures meeting neighbours, discovering neighbourhoods, improving your local economy, saving energy and making our air and water cleaner.

    And of course, there is the vibrant Transition Towns movement, which has reached most regions of Australia. If you know of a local example of food-art-activism-community-building, drop me a line.

    Collaborative cooking ventures known as underground or secret supper clubs are a fairly  recent phenomenon. I am not sure if there are any in Australia.

    You book online, and are sent a confirmation email with address. You dine with maybe six to twenty guests and, at the end, pay a contribution for your food and wine.

    The meal is served in a private establishment, probably someone’s house, but what you eat is restaurant quality.

    While I am sure the food and the experience for the guests is outstanding, it seem to me that the experience for the chefs is what prompted the movement in the first place.

    From this article in the Atlantic:

    But it’s my time in the kitchen that had stuck with me. I can’t imagine living with three roommates, let alone operating a business together to boot. And yet on Saturday I saw none of the shouting and contretemps that propel reality cooking shows and bedevil professional kitchens. Bonhomie may be amateurism’s greatest virtue.

    The writer is excited by the casual and playful atmosphere that this form of collaborative cooking creates. Another article in the NY Times says:

    They are not in it for the money or for Buddha Bar-size crowds; instead, they say, they are in it for the community and the creative freedom. It’s hard to imagine even the most adventurous legitimate restaurant encouraging customers to hack the hindquarters off a boar’s carcass. And underground restaurants have found their niche. Stringing together the farm-to-table movement and a bloggy kind of interactivity, they have gained a following among food lovers, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who have an opinion on local versus organic, prefer intimate and casual to grand and ceremonial, and are open to meeting people and building connections in new ways.

    Wouldn’t this be most people’s preferred environment for creativity? Pat Kane, author of The Play Ethic, talks about work as play. He asks:

    What would organisations be like which encouraged creativity, open-ended learning and experiment – the essence of play – as preferred characteristics for their employees or colleagues? What kinds of products, services and actions would these “players” generate?

    Since reading his book a few years ago, I’ve been on the lookout for organisations who have the values of play as a foundation of their operation.

    Underground supper clubs seem to be one example of this. People are interested in working in playful collaborative environments. If they can’t play in their workplaces, then they create their own spaces, in their own time, out of virtually nothing, for some serious after-hours fun.

    350Here’s my attempt at 350 – some images that I made on my way to Uni in Thursday morning. A small gesture, but if mine is one of thousands, or even millions, that adds up to something – right?

    Get involved, its pretty simple! For some inspiration visit the gallery at 350 org

    Maybe you could make some art:

    What do you get when you mix the arts and activism? Artivism!

    With the International Day of Climate Action only a week away, now is the perfect time to start building some creative visuals for you action. You’ve been planning your action, making phone calls and having meetings: now is the time to have some fun, and get into the “hands-on” part of creating an action. The plan: organize an “Art Build”. Call your friends, or round up some local youth and set a time to spend 3 hours making art for your action. It doesn’t matter if you have 2 people or 20, we’ve got a few simple tricks that will help you make your action louder, more colorful, and more fun. A little art goes a long way! Fun events such as this are also great ways to strengthen your action community, and to get more and more people involved. You can even invite the press, and get some coverage before your action even starts.

    There are lots of ways to get creative, and each day we receive new photos with all sorts of wonderful ideas. We’ve got a few things on our site that can help you, step by step, with the logisitics of making art for your action. Look at a few of the following pages, and let them spark your imagination. A good place to start is to make a banner for your action, this can appear front and center in your action photo: so everyone knows what your message is. You can create t-shirts for your action using these great stencils, or you can make headbands using potato prints. The possiblities are endless… Want to get some theater involved? Check out this script for a short skit that can be done quickly with groups of any age. Want to put some movement into this movement?  Look no further than this great idea for a dance performance. Don’t be afraid to push your limits – its all for the good of the climate movement.

    Looking for more ideas? Check out our Spread the Word page for even more tips on how to create hand-made posters to advertise for your event, cardboard hats, instruments made out of garbage, and other fun ideas to get your action to stand out in a crowd. We are a vibrant, colorful and diverse global movement, lets show that to the world! Become an artivist today!

    Or get involved in someone else’s action. Check out the actions that are happening near you. In Hobart, there are several events happening, including a plant collage at the Botanic Gardens, a procession on the waterfront, and the 350 photo challenge.

    To find out and register to attend an event, search the map at 350.org

    View Actions at 350.org

    350 a350 b

    Cascade brewery From the top of the ridge separating the Brewery and the South Hobart Tip, I look down from above, and think of expansion and growth, and capitalism.

    The Cascade brewery building is one of Hobart’s iconic buildings. From above, the Cascade Brewery is a different place to the one that is shown in the glossy tour brochures. A material symbol of the company, it has been expanded as the Brewery has grown, and eventually it has become a big messy group of highly functional, but pretty ugly, warehouses.

    I had thought that a rubbish tip located almost in the middle of a city was a terrible bit of planning (of course, the city has expanded somewhat). The smell of the rubbish apparently wafts down the valley on a warm summer’s evening, into the houses of South Hobart. I see the tip birds flying overhead when I look out my window. Flocks of crows and seagulls fly to and fro from the tip. These birds are the carrion-eaters, the birds we instinctively recoil from. They are not cute birds.

    On this particular walk I change my mind. For the tip is us. All of the objects we have discarded, our refuse, goes there. Perhaps we need to see it,  deal with it. For if it is out of sight, it is out of mind. That pile of rubbish is us. The tip birds, as they fly over in flocks heading towards or away from the tip are simply symbolic pointers to our bloat. We feed them with our waste, the increasing excess from our drive to grow and expand. The rubbish tip feeds these birds. We feed them.

    So I suppose this rather rambling post is about change and expansion, and wondering if growth is always smarter. Sometimes the most elegant and beautiful solution may involve re-use, renewal and regeneration.

    For some discussions about some new ways of living in cities check out ‘smart growth’ and ‘new urbanism’, (new terms to me!):

    New Urbanism Org

    Smart Growth Org

    Celsias

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