women farmers india feminisation of agriculture
Agri Politics Agriculture Op-ed

Farming is feminized! Is ‘she’ recognised?

Throughout ages, revolutions have sprung, spread and sowed the seeds of change all around the world. All of the shackles from slavery to anarchy have been broken from time to time. Regimes have changed, Regions have changed and even Regulations have changed, rekindling the world to a Renaissance. That which is less changed is the ‘plight of women’. It’s been more than a century since women’s movements gained momentum, but the fruits are yet to ripen. And now the World Economic Forum says that the ‘gender gap won’t close until 2186’, which means not less than another century! The status is such that even the highly developed US is yet to get its first woman president and in Iceland, the country with world’s best gender parity – women are paid approximately fourteen percent lesser than men. Enough said on the global stance, Indian standing is again a ‘fine kettle of fish’.

Agriculture – Largest employer of Indian Women!

Women in India have transcended adversities while being worshipped most of the times and vandalised many times. A major breakthrough has been that women have crossed the kitchen precincts, gained employment and secured monetary sovereignty, though not at large. When the lawmaking parliament is straggling since fifteen years to get a thirty – three point three three percent representation of women, the farming sector remains the huge employer of Indian women, pushing the percentage of representation to a massive fifty – nine point nine, which makes women – the major contributor to farming too! Does it sound like an asset or a liability?

Women remain impeccable assets to agriculture while it proves to be glum liabilities for them

Women remain impeccable assets to agriculture while it proves to be glum liabilities for them.

Celebrated scientist M.S. Swaminathan notes that “It was women who first domesticated crop plants and thereby initiated the art and science of farming. While men went out hunting in search of food, women started gathering seeds from the native flora and began cultivating those of interest from the point of view of food, feed, fodder, fibre, and fuel”. Since long times, women have been associated with farming way too much and this ‘feminisation of agriculture’ began to hit new heights ever since the economic reforms period. The globalisation of Indian economy gave a big boom to the nation’s industrial sector, which attracted men largely from rural pockets. Millions of men from India’s villages migrate to the cities, leaving behind their farmlands, in this manner making their female counterparts the ‘de facto head of the family’.

Women Farmers – India’s Energetic Dynamos

Women, along with their tiring household chores, toil extremely in their farms too. Except ploughing, women industrially engage in all of the farming activities, from seeding to harvesting while tending poultry and livestock also (ploughing is also done by women in a few places). These women spend about eighteen hours every day in their farms, with nil week – offs. A report published in nineteen ninety – one, by the Food and Agricultural Organisation states that, “In the Indian Himalayas a pair of bulls works 1,064 hours, a man 1,212 hours, and a woman 3,485 hours in a year on a one – hectare farm, a figure which illustrates women’s significant contribution to agricultural production”.

Women role in Indian Agriculture
Agricultural census-2015-16 : Women contribution on agri sector

This drudgery of labour has never lessened since ages for women and even now, when mechanisation is on the go. Almost all of the farm equipment in the market were and are tested on men, making the design incompatible or less compatible with the women. Besides, occupational hazards harming their health is also common. Furthermore, in recent times the farms of indebted male farmers who perpetrate suicide, are taken over by their female equivalents who get to suffer from both emotional and financial crunches. In spite of all these hardships, women continue to carry out farming. Seems like women empowerment?

In actual fact, this feminised farming is either a phenomenon of ‘disguised female unemployment’ or ‘pseudo – women empowerment’

Food security is under threat!

Facts might prove well, why this female – instrumentalised farming is not a ‘dashing women empowerment’. The official datum that ‘only thirteen percent of farming women own their land’ would be displeasing, for sure. Now, if one thinks “these land rights and all have nothing to do with women empowerment, rather financial independence via farming is all enough” that’s nothing other than pulling the wool over one’s eyes! For a farming woman, land rights are indispensably imperative. Under Indian modus operandi, to avail subsidies, loans and credits, land ownership is primarily essential. Most of the women farmers work in farms which are registered in the name of their spouses. This bars their financial liberty, which obviously questions their decision making power. Also, land inheritance is always patriarchal deserting the females any possibility to own a piece of land. Moreover, rural women also face wide lacuna in technical assistance. Even among the landowning farm women, the lands are mostly out of their control as they are made benamis for any of their male relatives. All the more, women farmers are rarely acclaimed as ‘farmers’ and even when they are recognised they are put forth as ‘labourers’, hardly ever as ‘cultivators’. These underpaid women farmers, mostly carry out subsistence farming, rather than commercial ones and even when they make commercial farming, the male teemed markets subjugate their bargaining capacities and offer lower prices. This wide practising of subsistence farming is a major threat to the nation’s food security. In such flimsy grounds, ‘feminisation of agriculture’ gives no good vibes to the women farmers involved and the country’s populace depending on them, as well.

feminisation of agriculture in india
Barring a woman farmer’s financial liberty obviously questions her decision making power.

Women to be made land owners

Equally, feminisation in rural areas has also made women open up to new opportunities in entrepreneurship and self – employment, through microcredit institutions and self – help groups (SHGs). Accordingly, the government also devices schemes and allocates sole funds for the women farmers. Recently, the government panel to ‘double farmers’ income by 2022’ has also recommended for women to be recorded as cultivators in revenue records to make them eligible for all privileges, thereby making them land owners. There are plentiful success stories on their successes, but harrowing harsh realities keep existing. Most of the credits and subsidies obtained by the women farmers, ‘nine times out of ten’ do not serve in their interest. Out of financial pressures for affording the inflating educational and health care needs, either women themselves divert their earnings and debts or their male counterparts use them as an instrument to source funds. Needless to say, they are also victimised to domestic violence.

When it is all said and done

Like we conclude always “the government must come out with empowering laws and schemes and funds and awareness and what not!” Yes, it’s the government’s onus. Nevertheless, the issue is too typical. More than political efforts, socio – cultural changes influence the status of women profusely. Even when local bodies are having a strict thirty three percent reservation for women, the representation is never genuine, as many of women candidates are only proxies for their male collaborators. Be it the glass ceiling or stereotypical feeling, it gets to break only from ‘the inside’. Changes are to be mended in the mind.

‘Farmeress’ – a word exists and a clique exists as well.

She is a bread – maker and she could be a bread – winner as well!

He is a farmer and she could be a farmeress as well!

‘Farmeress’ – yes the word exists and she exists as well!

Farming is the backbone of Indian economy and ‘She’ is the backbone of farming as well!