Socio-Economic Status of Rural Farm Women

Dr. Ruchi Thakur and Dr. Vishal Sharma

Women in India are the backbone of the society and important human resource. They play a significant and crucial role in agriculture and allied operations and household activities. Economic well being of India depends on the agricultural development since the livelihood of 60 per cent of the population is based on Agriculture and allied occupation. Women workers make a mammoth contribution in agricultural development but their socio economic condition is not quite appreciable due to cultural and political reasons. India as one such country is highly depending on agriculture resources, where the majority of its agriculture workforce is dominated by women. In India, adult population of women consists of nearly 50 per cent and about 77 per cent of the Indian adult population lives in rural areas. They contribute 75 per cent of the labour required for operations. About 36 million women are engaged in farm operations as main workers; from sowing to harvesting and storing in bins and bags.
Most women are engaged either as cultivators or helpers to cultivators or as agricultural labourers. They also participate in off-farm activities like processing and marketing of farm products. They have been active not just in crop cultivation but also in allied areas such as horticulture, livestock and fisheries. Traditionally, women have always played an important role in agriculture – as farmers, co-farmers, family labour, wage labours and mangers of farms. The selection, preservation and maintenance, the development and sharing of seed stock has long been preserve of women. Women performed a majority of households’ chores and also the work related to farming and agriculture. It is undeniable that women are the backbone of the agriculture workforces. Women agricultural labours are recognized as unorganized sector. Rural women always gave a major contribution to the agriculture and allied fields and also provide contribution to the development of rural economy. Her work starts from sowing, weeding, harvesting operations, crop production and live stock production in agricultural activities. Women also work as home maker, her day starts from cleaning home, transporting water, collecting fuel and fodder, doing laundry, preparing food for family, childcare and carrying out agricultural duties. She works inside the home and outside of home.
The involvement of women in agriculture depends on a number of factors such as the type of activity, socioeconomic status of the family, the particular geographical area, and whether the agricultural production is of cash crop or sustenance. Despite their incredible role in agricultural sector, their involvement in decision-making regarding farm management still seems questionable. Most rural women do not have any role in decision making with regard to purchase/sale of farming implements, land preparation and determination of type and amount of chemicals (pesticides, herbicides) used. Women farmers suffer from a multiple burden due to their involvement in home making, child rearing, agricultural activities and income earning responsibilities.
Women farmers are discriminated in all facets of life. The women farmers in our society are exploited and denied their basic rights. They are victimized from rigid caste, norms, values, and taboos and deprived from access to cultural, economic and political opportunities than men. Rural women’s participation in farm management decision making is quite minimal. This can be attributed to the age, education, land tenancy and the wealth status of the woman. Farm women contribute significantly to family income but they should also be integrated into the mainstream through better education, health and other support facilities.
Women agricultural labors face a lot of difficulties or problems and women does not known about how to face the problem like unpaid work, wage discrimination, low wages, dual responsibility, traditional bounded, hard work, no transfer facility, low standard of living, drinking habit of husband, lack of time, absence of decision making process, inside the home and outside the home, seasonal unemployment, male dominated society etc. Women’s status is low by all social economic and political indicators. Women’s wage work is considered a threat to the male ego and women’s engagement in multiple home based economic activities leads to under remuneration for their work. According to our opinion government has to take interest in solving their problems government should not only invent the schemes but they have to see whether the schemes are working successfully or not. By this the agriculture women labour will come out of these problems and can lead a better life.
Women’s access to basic economic resources such as land (as owners), low cost labour-saving machines, food processing machines, credit and agricultural innovations need to be improved. They need to address consideration which presents women’s housewives and excluded them from being identified in agricultural statistics; underestimating the role of unpaid workers in many countries and the ignoring the role of farm women all underestimate the contribution of women to agriculture and food security. Reports on monitoring and evaluation of agricultural programs to women and women groups as feedback as this will allow equalization of the full participation of women in the entire process. This is most effective and appropriate way forward. Support systems for women farmers within a holistic gender-sensitive framework are urgently needed to form a policy development, project design and implementation agenda. Women must be directly involved with the development and implementation of the new technology.