These Brave Women Running Rural India

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.

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Those invisible farm hands

From India Water Portal: http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/those-invisible-farm-hands

By: Aarti Kelkar-Khambete

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.[1] Surveys say that almost 75 percent of women, as compared to 59 percent men, work in the agricultural sector in India [2] and in many parts of India, women generate their income through agricultural activities [3].

“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 [4]. 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”.[5] Sixty three percent of women in India are agricultural labourers, dependent on the farms of others [4]. 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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