A Day of June
It is a hot afternoon of summer, with temperatures touching 48°C and (hot wind) blowing across. Amidst all, a farmer is working down in the field, who sweats at first and soon enough because of dehydration stops sweating as well. This dedication towards growing crops and feeding the world out there, indeed an ‘Ann-daata’ (provider of food) for all. She deserves all of our respect for how she feeds all of us year after year.
Oh, did you flinch too? Was it a typing error, a farmer being addressed as a ‘she’?
By now you all have would have pictured this hard-working farmer, focusing on growing healthy produce, isn’t it? A brown-skinned middle-aged man in soiled white clothes and moustaches, perhaps a turban too. Quite a common thing among all of us to imagine a farmer like this.
But have you ever considered if this farmer was a woman? It is an unfortunate truth that we all tend to generalise and have sexist thoughts unknowingly. The exercise above was an example of the same if you too imagined a male farmer as you read.
Farming and Women
Are you aware that more than 70% of rural women are engaged in agriculture and farming? Women are responsible for about 65% of farming-related work across regions, but due to the patriarchal society and ignorance, their role is rather left invisible for the rest of the world.
As per the National Policy for Farmers – 2007, Definition of a Farmer:
“For the purpose of this Policy, the term “farmer” will refer to a person actively engaged in the economic and/or livelihood activity of growing crops and producing other primary agricultural commodities and will include all agricultural operational holders, cultivators, agricultural labourers, sharecroppers, tenants, poultry and livestock rearers, fishers, beekeepers, gardeners, pastoralists, non-corporate planters and planting labourers, as well as persons engaged in various farming-related occupations such as sericulture, vermiculture, and agro-forestry. The term will also include tribal families /persons engaged in shifting cultivation and in the collection, use, and sale of minor and non-timber forest produce.”
The law does not specify the gender under its definition of a farmer, yet in general, if a man works on the farm, he is termed as a farmer, while a woman is termed as a labourer. This discrimination is not only limited to the tag of labourers to their name but also restricts them from sole access to the land, livestock, assets, and credit. For working equally in the fields, women are paid 1.4 times lesser than men, again, as they are considered as labourers, not farmers.
The agriculture sector employees 80% of the total economically active women of the country. About 85% of rural women are engaged in farming activities, yet only 13% are land-owners. Bihar has the highest percentage of women in agriculture sector, touching 50.1% of the total workforce.
While females are moving ahead and excelling in every field, defeminization of agriculture is taking place with a major decline in the percentage of females working in the field. As per the data released by NSSO on the periodic labour force, the work participation rate of rural women from age 15-59 has declined from 51.6% in 1993-94 to 37.2% in 2011-12. This decline is directly linked with the greater masculinization of agriculture and blunt discrimination based on gender.
Is there any hope?
With such a steep decline in the rate of females in agriculture and their exit from agriculture and farming, the percentage is bound to reach zero in the years to come. While females play an important role in farming and are equally capable of growing the product, the decision-making role is controlled by men. Remember, about 60 to 80% of the food is produced by rural women. If this discrimination continues, soon women will exit farming and it will severely affect the economy of the country, not only human rights and equality. What do you think is the solution to it? Let’s discuss the possibilities in the comment section.