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Sustainability, Vol. 8, Pages 1231: Indicators for the Analysis of Peasant Women’s Equity and Empowerment Situations in a Sustainability Framework: A Case Study of Cacao Production in Ecuador

ABSTRACT

Family agriculture is a fundamental pillar in the construction of agroecological agri-food alternatives fostering processes of sustainable rural development where social equity represents a central aspect. Despite agroecology’s critical openness, this area has not yet incorporated an explicit gender approach allowing an appropriate problematization and analysis of the cultural inequalities of gender relations in agriculture, women’s empowerment processes and their nexus with sustainability. This work presents an organized proposal of indicators to approach and analyze the degree of peasant women’s equity and empowerment within a wide sustainability framework. After a thorough bibliographical review, 34 equity and empowerment indicators were identified and organized into six basic theoretical dimensions. Following the collection of empirical data (from 20 cacao-producing families), the indicators were analyzed and reorganized on the basis of hierarchical cluster analysis and explanatory interdependence into a new set of six empirical dimensions: (1) access to resources, education and social participation; (2) economic-personal autonomy and self-esteem; (3) gender gaps (labor rights, health, work and physical violence); (4) techno-productive decision-making and remunerated work; (5) land ownership and mobility; and (6) diversification of responsibilities and social and feminist awareness. Additionally, a case study is presented that analyzes equity and empowerment in the lives of two rural cacao-producing peasant women in Ecuador.