Empowering rural women: Women used to command acute power and importance in our ancient culture
Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had once said, “You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”.
The crucial role that women and girls play in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing has been increasingly recognized.
Women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labour force, including informal work, and perform the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work within families and households in rural areas.
Women used to command acute power and importance in our ancient culture. The proof of this fact can be found in all the scriptures and even our mythological stories. We worship Goddess Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati and many others. That shows how Indian civilization had revered the female form.
Climate change affects women’s and men’s assets and well-being differently in terms of agricultural production, food security, health, water and energy resources, climate-induced migration and conflict, and climate-related natural disasters.
Women are powerful change agents to address climate change at scale. They are key actors in building community resilience and responding to climate-related disasters. Women tend to make decisions about resource use and investments in the interest and welfare of their children, families, and communities.
Empowerment of women involves many things – economic opportunity, social equality, and personal rights. Women are deprived of these human rights, often as a matter of tradition. In rural areas, women are generally not perceived to have any meaningful income generation capacity, and hence, they are relegated mainly to household duties and cheap labour.
For rural women, new initiatives are particularly urgent in matters of agricultural production, cottage and small-scale industry, credit, marketing, energy, technology, potable water supply, sanitation, primary health care, education and training.
Additionally, rural women have difficulties in engaging in income-generating activities because of their general lack of modern education and training and their hard and time-consuming responsibilities in the above- mentioned tasks of food processing (e.g. pounding and other processing of grain) and the fetching of fuel and water, often requiring many hours of work a day.
In respect of agricultural production, women’s work must be treated as the important part of the farm family’s work that it is an extension and other services should be designed to meet women’s as well as men’s needs.
The majority of rural women in developing countries are also in great, sometimes desperate, need of improved water supply and sanitation facilities. Gandhi Ji has a vision that women must play an equal and important role in national development. However, the movement for raising the socio-economic status of women had involved generally the middle-class educated women in major urban centers while the great mass of rural women are yet to enjoy the rights and privileges as enshrined in the Constitution.
Women exploitation is a serious problem and the question is that why an exploited women lives in society, cannot have any right to get justice even after introducing various laws in favor of Indian women. Without the active participation in rural development of women, no strategy is going to succeed within the foreseeable future. A key challenge today is how to strengthen women’s capacities to identify technological needs, and to create and adapt technologies in light of social needs and resource constraints.
(The writer is based in Ahmedabad Gujrat)