The Feminist Times
Women Farmers: Empowerment and Sustainability
About 80 percent of all working women in India contribute to the agriculture
industry and 60-80% of the food consumed in developing nations is produced
by women. Women are taking charge of family farms because more and more
men are moving out of villages to find work in big cities. A majority of the
non-mechanical work on farms is done by women. Because women play a
major role in agriculture, ignoring gender issues in agriculture can be costly,
socially and economically.
Gender and sustainability are interlinked and to achieve agriculture
sustainability it is very important to address gender inequality.
Yet, even with female farmers playing a key role in the agriculture industry,
they significantly lag behind their male counterparts when it comes to
recognition, crop yielding, and earnings.
Women farmers are usually unpaid and mostly invisible in the eyes of
policymakers. They’re recognized as farmers in the macro policy framework or
in the farming sector in general. This is because the female agriculture workers
are excluded from rights and entitlements, such as institutional credit,
pension, irrigation sources, and property rights.
But why is recognition important ? In the absence of any recognition in
policies, women cannot get access to subsidies and entitlements related to
access to rural credit, assets, technology, irrigation, inputs, and rights
designed for farmers. They cannot avail the benefits of schemes like the Kisan
Credit Card Programme.
Gender inequality to this extent makes it difficult to increase food production
and harms sustainability.
So what can be done?
Land ‘ownership, accessibility to entitlements, and control,’ are some of the
major issues that need immediate attention and although India has
frameworks like the Hindu Succession Act, land rights need to be
strengthened. Government should target making more gendered friendly
policies and schemes that minimize the gulf between ownership versus
control of land by addressing long-rooted patriarchal notions, to achieve
economic equality in gender.
What women farmers need right now, are tailor-made policies that don’t just
aim at inclusion but at targeted development and being gender-sensitive.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO, 2011), empowering
women through land and ownership rights has the potential of raising total
agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent and can reduce
hunger across the world by 12-17 percent.
Another major obstacle is that of low awareness of women’s rights. Women
not knowing about their own rights and responsibilities only increase the
magnitude of the problem. Therefore more and more awareness campaigns
should be initiated in rural areas in order to eliminate factors such as
post-marital residence, village exogamy, opposition to mobility from men,
low female literacy and awareness, and male dominance in public-decision
making policies , which constrain women in exercising their legal rights.