From Korea: “Women’s Rights Are A Precondition To Food Sovereignty”
Warning: this is not a post about spirituality, per se. But I invite all dharma junkies to stick around. And I’ll tell you why.
In my opinion, in order to be strong, the education of a political Buddhist should involve learning about the political and social situations in parts of the world where the teachings of Buddha have deep roots and living traditions. This interview with Yoon, Geum-Soon illuminates the food justice situation in just such a place: Korea.
Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, Yoon, Geum-Soon has brilliant things to say about neoliberalism, colonial history, and women’s self-organization in Korea, as it relates to women farmers and peasants in particular.
Historically, she explains, women have played a respected agricultural role in the meticulous process of seed collection and preservation.
In La Via Campesina, farmers and other people are talking about food sovereignty and I believe the precondition to realize food sovereignty is women’s rights. Women have an important role in realizing food sovereignty. Women are those who actually find seeds, collect seeds, develop seeds, and preserve them. I believe that when it comes to connecting consumers with producers, women have an important role. To preserve seeds, to preserve natural resources, women have a traditional role in protecting them.
Granted, divisions of labor based on assigned gender have their own tricky issues: expecting that just because someone is called a woman or a man, they should or must perform a certain kind of labor. But more pressing, when it comes to the lives of Korean women and women outside Korea affected by regional economics, are the neoliberal policies (many of them US-backed, and backed with arms) that impose unsustainable agricultural industrialization and free trade agreements that harm, rather than helping, rural Koreans. Yoon, Guem-Soon explains:
During the Korean War, we got many bombs from their planes and, also, in this process, three million Koreans died. After the war, we wanted to revive our agricultural industry in rural areas. The U.S. government gave cheap agricultural products in the name of aid, but they didn’t have any interest in reviving Korean traditional agricultural systems. They distributed cheap abundant agricultural products from the U.S. into the Korean market. The Korean farmers could not compete with the cheap products from the U.S. They could not survive and so they moved to the city and became urban laborers.
In the face of these repressive economic policies, the disastrous interference of GMOs in the Korea, and the related economically forced migration that is exacerbating domestic violence in Korea, women are organizing themselves to win more economic power and directly confront sexual violence in their own communities.