At the sitting held on 14 September, the members of the Subcommittee for Monitoring the Agricultural Situation in the Marginal - Most Undeveloped Areas in the Republic of Serbia discussed the position of rural women as the most vulnerable social category and prospects for its improvement.
Subcommittee Chairman Milija Miletic said that women are the pillar of the house and family and it is time to improve their standing in the rural areas both through legislation and stimulation packages offered by the relevant ministries. He said that in rural areas women have no sick leave or social benefits like urban women such as maternity leave or child support despite the fact that they do pay pension and social insurance. Women in rural areas who pay agricultural pension insurance do not have the right to deferred payment and their access to health services, as well as education, welfare and other institutions is problematic.
According to research women head the local communities in only 7% of the 40 municipalities inspected, which is another indicator that legislation needs to be reformed to include gender equality. The officials also spoke about amending the Law on Financial Support for Families with Children to for the first time grant rural women formal legal recognition.
Lidija Acimovic, representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, said that though the Ministry is actively pursuing the policy of gender equality and attempting to encourage women to head agricultural households, patriarchal mentality and financial inequality still rule the villages in Serbia. Acimovic added that despite all this women are becoming increasingly more interested in the Ministry’s stimulation packages for households headed by women, regulated through a series of rulebooks and projects by the relevant ministries.
Subcommittee member Dalibor Radicevic said that growing numbers of people are leaving the rural communities and fewer women choose to remain in the villages due to the dire living conditions. At the same time people in these communities are not adequately informed about the projects and subsidies offered by the Ministry and do not know how to apply for the ongoing projects. One of the ideas voiced at the sitting was to organize forums in the biggest municipalities to educate and inform the rural community about the funds, projects and donations at their disposal.
Finally, the Subcommittee members drafted conclusion proposals to be forwarded to the Ministry advising it to pass a law on financial support for families with children to grant the women in rural areas the right to sick leave, to encourage women to use the right to head agricultural households, organize quarterly trainings about how to exercise their rights and about the ongoing Ministry projects, as well as allocate higher funds to finance women in agricultural businesses and cooperatives.
The sitting was chaired by Subcommittee Chairman Milija Miletic, and attended by Subcommittee members and deputy members Zarko Bogatinovic and Dalibor Radicevic, representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management Lidija Acimovic and member of the Network for Rural Development of Serbia Zorica Velimirovic.