Putting your values into action: Dr. Ann DenisOctober 1, 2018
“In my experience, women usually have a very acute analysis of what is going on in their own society. That’s something we should support.”
When long-time donor Dr. Ann Denis started teaching sociology, gender was rarely examined.
“‘Society’ either implicitly meant men or was an undifferentiated mass,” says Ann, now an emeritus professor at the University of Ottawa. “So one of the things we started to ask was, ‘where are the women?'”
In countries where donors like you and Ann support SeedChange (formerly USC Canada) programs, the answer to that question is often the field or garden. Women work long days to grow food for their family and community, usually without access to credit or their own land. Membership in farmers’ cooperatives tends to be reserved for men, and since men often focus on export agriculture, agriculture to meet local needs gets overlooked.
When women have the freedom to reach their full potential, it benefits everyone in their community. That’s why donors like Ann have been supporting SeedChange’s work with women for decades. It’s also why Canada’s new international assistance policy prioritizes the empowerment of women for building a more peaceful and prosperous world.
But how can Canadians help women in other countries empower themselves?
“I think there’s a delicate balance in what we do. We should not be imposing a western model on others,” says Ann. “In my experience, women usually have a very acute analysis of what is going on in their own society. That’s something we should support.”
Ann has been donating to SeedChange since 1969. She has witnessed the organization’s mission evolve over time, from Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova’s early focus on post-war Europe to today’s work with farmers.
“I’ve always liked [the SeedChange] approach. It’s about helping people be more self-sustaining, rather than giving to the unfortunate,” she says.
“Work with farmers and seeds has merit both overseas and in Canada. Supporting farmers is important for survival, in terms of feeding ourselves. Here, we’re perhaps not as conscious of its importance as we might be because we depend so much on international food chains and a certain amount of exploitation, unfortunately.”
Exploitation is the reality of many farmers today. But as the stories of many of the women – including Jeidy and Fanta – we work with show, it doesn’t have to be that way. Inspiring farmers around the world are leading the way towards their own empowerment. Thanks to generous donors like you and Ann, SeedChange can continue to support them.
When women farmers thrive, the world becomes a better place for us all.