Experts call for recognition of unpaid work of rural women to be widespread

Thursday, 06 June 2024

Recognising and paying for the invisible, unpaid work women do in rural communities is empowering and has a positive ripple effect on the local community and economy according to new research. Experts are now calling on governments to adopt these practices more widely.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham have worked with Ético The Ethical Trading Company Ltd, Cooperatives, and Social Business Network in Nicaragua to analyse the impact of this novel supply chain model which recognises women in rural communities for their previously unpaid work.

The research team evaluated the model, taking testimonials from the women, men and employers involved in the cooperatives and from this developed a strategy with key recommendations for rolling this practice out more widely. The policy brief, an infographic and a video were launched on 5 June.

The three key recommendations made in the policy are:

  1. Include the cost of the unpaid and unrecognised work of rural women in imported or locally produced agricultural goods.
  2. Champion those cooperatives that remunerate and recognise women’s unpaid work and champion small cooperatives fully owned by women.
  3. Develop strategies to introduce small cooperatives that empower rural women to business networks and markets.

The work that rural women do to support production is invisible and unrecognised. About 67% of Latin American women earn less than the national minimum wage and suffer violence as a result of traditional attitudes to female subservience and have little protection from domestic abuse.

An innovative cooperative food supply chain to recognise the unpaid work of rural women involved in sesame oil production in Nicaragua was co-produced by The Ethical Trading Company Ltd (Ético), the Juan Francisco Paz Silva Cooperative (JFPS), Prof. Catherine Hoskins (Professor Emerita, Coventry University, UK), and the charity Social Business Network (SBN). Fair Trade companies are supporting this initiative.

The cooperative supply chain strategy used by Ético and its partners to recognise and remunerate the unpaid work of rural women has created a positive effect on local communities.

The policy briefing presents a strategy to recognise and remunerate the unpaid work of rural women, highlighting its impact onempowering women, furthering gender equality and stimulating local development. It sets out specific policy changes needed across the different levels of the food supply chains for these impacts to be realised. Insights from Nicaraguan rural women and men have informed this briefing. One woman commented: “‘Before, I used to live like I was

submerged, looking after my six children, I did not have the right to go out, to talk to other women, to meet other people. Now I am able to socialize, and my husband understands the importance of allowing me to grow and learn new skills’

It was clear from evaluating the work of the social cooperatives that the women being paid for their work felt empowered and this also led to strengthening of local economies and the social fabric. Recognising the work that women do will help to create healthier food systems and will strengthen global and local food supplies.
Dr Zinnia Gonzalez-Carranza. Assistant Professor of Plant Sciences and Leader of Mezquite Project

Nicholas Hoskyns from Ético said: “This pioneering initiative from Nicaragua, shows that all actors in product supply chains can collaborate to empower women. The cooperatives are ensuring this initiative delivers transformational, empowerment enterprises with the women in their communities. We are so inspired by the impact it has created so far and see this as just the start, its potential is huge.”

Story credits

More information is available from  Dr Zinnia Gonazalez-Carranza on

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 7486462

Notes to editors:

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