• 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.


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Ishita Singh

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