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Durga Devi deftly digs up a fistful of rice saplings and transplants them on to an empty space in the pliable soil. As her hands work without a pause, so does her tongue. She chatters non-stop with Chandrakala Devi, her sister-in-law, who is transplanting rice in another corner of their field. They talk about their children, the food they have cooked, the weather, and other household matters.
“Old age caught up with us while we were working,” Chandrakala laughingly tells VillageSquare.in, as she progresses through the field. At 34, Chandrakala considers herself an old woman.
Durga and Chandrakala spend the entire time in the field bent over double, progressing a step at a time through their little plot of land in Mandal village of Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. Their work is strenuous, leaves them with aches and pains, but they must continue. They are surrounded by mountains, and a stream gurgles down the slopes near the fields. The Himalayan village is home to 108 families, and has a population of 452.
See the original article in Farming Matters here
Authors: BISWANATH SINHA & TUSHAR DASH
It is said that ‘rice is grown on women’s backs’. Globally, women provide between 50 and 90 percent of the labour in rice fields. They perform backbreaking tasks like seedling removal, transplanting and weeding in bent posture and under wet conditions for more than 1000-1500 hours per hectare. In addition, they are exposed to chemicals. Women working in flooded fields for long hours come into contact with various disease causing vectors exposing them to multiple health risks like intestinal to skin diseases and female urinary and genital ailments. This affects their ability to work and earn, and furthermore, it drains out their money on health care, sometimes making them indebted.
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Phumani is aged and has trouble with her memory. “I can’t remember much about my childhood work,” she says, struggling to make herself comfortable in her plastic chair “but I started transplanting when I was about this high.” Her hand hovers less than 4 feet above the floor and a hushed amusement ripples through the assembled group. She is clearly loved and cared for by the community of rice growers we’ve come to talk with. But there’s no escaping the tragically comical fact that Phumani, at the age of 78, still stands at less than 4 feet high. Or, more accurately, stands less than 4 feet high again.
Phumani can no longer stand up straight. Her body is bent double, her skeleton frozen into a permanent transplanter’s pose.
She goes on to describe how she would also have to help graze the cattle and do other household chores, help with the harvest and so on. Transplanting would start at 8 or 9am and continue until 4pm. “When I was young I felt no pain but then, later on, whenever I used to go for transplanting I really felt the pain in my hands and other parts of my body.”
Now, she is permanently racked with pain. But her story and her plight are by no means unique.
Read the original article in Village Square here
Author: Abhijeet Jadhav
The simple act of cooking takes on a difficult dimension due to lack of easy access to fuel and water, forcing women in rural India to walk long distances to get them, increasing drudgery and leading to health hazards that call for immediate action
She wakes up at 5am when it is still dark and the rest of the family is asleep. She walks 4 km to reach a hillock and starts gathering firewood. By daybreak, she is back and starts cooking for the family. What about water for cooking? That involves another trek.
She represents most women in Bubli, a tribal village in Surgana taluk of Nashik district, where most of the households do not have cooking gas connection. The trek for firewood and water is repeated every day of the year. Prolonged bending, carrying excessive loads, improper postures, and limited time for rest have a telling effect on the health of the women.
Food is central to human life, but should life be consumed by the simple act of cooking? We often take fuel and water for granted. But not everyone is privileged to have easy access to these basic necessities. There are pockets in India where women have to work hard for hours to gather water and firewood. There is huge amount of labor by rural women around the simple task of cooking that is never quantified.
By Moin Qazi, Daily O (See original article)
Women are the mainstay of small-scale agriculture, the farm labour force and day-to-day family subsistence. The biggest myth is that the rural woman is part of her land’s wealth. Yes, but only to the extent of generating it. They don’t own land but produce secondary crops, gather food and firewood, process, store and prepare family food and fetch water for the family.
On average, women spend about twice as much time as men doing the unpaid work that makes life possible for everyone, like cooking, cleaning and caring. As a result, women have no time to finish their education, learn new skills. The fact that the potential of so many women is going unrealised is a tragedy – but it’s also an opportunity. Girls and women aren’t just the faces of the poverty; they’re also the key to overcoming it.
The Indian woman has moved out from the kitchen, only to be shackled by other obstructions such as inheritances laws for agricultural land in favour of men, preference for sons, patrilocal marriage, female seclusion from decision making et al. Few rural women own or control land and this handicaps them in the face of poverty. She is a victim of not just these circumstances, but of social attitudes.
From India Water Portal: http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/those-invisible-farm-hands
Parvati, aged 40, is an agricultural labourer working on the outskirts of Pune. The sole breadwinner of her family, she has not been going for work for three days because of severe pain in the lower back. She asks me for some pills or ointments that could relieve her of her backache. “I go for weeding and need to stay bent through the day. I walk back home after five and then do all the housework. Else, who will do it for me?” she asks.
Agriculture, an increasingly female activity
Agriculture is undergoing a radical change in India with more and more rural men migrating to bigger cities for work, leaving women, children and elderly behind to take care of the land and agriculture. This puts extra burden on women who have their hands full already with household chores. Surveys say that almost 75 percent of women, as compared to 59 percent men, work in the agricultural sector in India  and in many parts of India, women generate their income through agricultural activities .
“We come by the bus provided by the owner. It takes around 2.5 hours for us to reach here. We need to finish all our work at home, and come here at 9am and work till 5pm. It gets almost dark by the time we reach home. It is hard work but how can we complain? We get Rs 150 per day,” says 43-year-old Sangeeta, another agricultural labourer who works on the same farm as Parvati.
From being cultivators earlier, more women farmers are turning labourers indicating the growing distress in Indian agriculture where families are finding it difficult to hold on to their lands . The census classifies an agricultural labourer as “a person who works on another person’s land for wages in money or kind or share. He or she has no right of lease or contract on land on which she/he works”. Sixty three percent of women in India are agricultural labourers, dependent on the farms of others . In the case of women working on their own farms, it is mainly the men of the house who own the land.
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