Gendered aspirations and occupations among rural youth, in agriculture and beyond: A cross-regional perspective
This paper (PDF) in the Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security, explores rural young women’s and men’s occupational aspirations and trajectories in India, Mali, Malawi, Morocco, Mexico, Nigeria, and the Philippines. Across the study’s regional contexts, young rural women and men predominantly aspire for formal blue and white-collar jobs. Yet, they experience an aspiration-achievement gap, as the promise of their education for securing the formal employment they seek is unfulfilled. Various gender norms that discriminate against women in agriculture limit women’s ability to learn about and try out new practices, restrict their agricultural opportunities, and orient their aspirations away from agriculture. Youth and gender issues are inextricably intertwined and cannot be understood in isolation one from the other. These findings have important implications for agricultural policy and research for development. Opening up pathways for young women in agriculture will require addressing the intersecting inequalities they face on the basis of age and gender. This will require working not only with women, but also with men and masculinities, and publicly valorizing agriculture, women and supportive men. Laying the structural foundations for a knowledge-intensive and ‘modern’ agriculture is also needed to enable bright young women and men to shine in the sector. The authors propose a shift towards supporting young people to achieve their aspirations. These aspirations can be pursued while catalyzing innovation in agriculture and natural resource management. Young people’s power to catalyze agricultural innovation should be re-conceptualized to better reflect their aspirations, knowledge, resources, and the enthusiasm they bring. To include youth in agriculture, a productive approach seeks to expand the range of options and space for this diverse generational group to gain a sense of agency, security, and fulfillment in the rural and urban areas where they experience life and make a living.