farmers women

Women Farmer Day is being celebrated at leading protest site Kundli as well as some other protest sites of the courageous farmers’ movement today on January 18. A large number of women arrived from several villages of Haryana and Punjab as well as other places on Sunday. They are taking over many duties today and will be participating even more actively in protest movement. Their deep emotional support for the movement has already attracted attention. Several youth also arrived at the protest site after a marathon foot march.

In a wider context observation of the women farmer day is also symbolic of the very important but not adequately recognized contribution of women farmers and farm workers who contribute a lot to a wide range of farming activities. In fact if the entire range of farming activities including important allied activities like dairying activities are included, estimates reveal the contribution to be extremely high.

This has increased further in villages from where migration has increased . In several such villages for all practical purposes women are leading farming activities. While this is the changing reality in some villages , in other villages like Himalayan villages such conditions have existed for several decades. In Himalayan villages women have also played an important role in protecting and sustaining forests. Despite this important role, lack of adequate recognition of women farmers comes in the ability of the women to get benefit of several government schemes .

Another  neglected aspect of the important role and potential of women farmers is that at many places they have been found to be more interested and involved in ecologically protective farming. An important move forward for protecting interests of small and medium farmers is to move towards farming which is more self-reliant, less dependent on purchase of outside inputs and relying more on free resources available within the village. This appeals to the natural protective instincts of women who want to protect their families from high costs and the resulting debts. With their understanding of kitchen and food realities, they are also more committed to the production of safe, healthy and nutritious food by avoiding and/or reducing dependence on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides etc.

A key to rural prosperity is value added to crops and allied  rural produce by taking up a wide range of food processing in rural cottage and small-scale units. In this work the leadership belongs to women as they have much more experience and skills.

In addition women are also much inclined towards a leadership role in social reform movements, particularly movements to curb use of liquor and all intoxicants, check domestic violence and gender violence as well as discrimination and reduce the burden of dowry system.

Women farm workers apart from contributing much to farming have also contributed a lot to the creation of many useful assets of villages and development works like ponds and roads which benefit all by their higher participation in rural employment guarantee scheme. If encouragement is extended, landless farmers have also been very well inclined towards creating very productive and useful kitchen gardens.

Hence clearly women farmers and farm workers deserve better recognition of their immense contributions together with more empowering rights and encouragement for realizing the even higher potential of their contributions.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Vimla and Sunderlal Bahuguna—Chipko Movement in Garhwal Himalaya and the Struggle Against Tehri Dam Project.


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