Lok Sabha TV- Insight: International Day of Rural Women
Note: Please watch from 23ed minute for today’s topic
On October 15th each year, the United Nations celebrates International Day of Rural Women and recognizes importance of women in enhancing agricultural and rural development worldwide. As per the UN, empowering rural women is a prerequisite to fulfil the vision of sustainable development goals that aim to end poverty and hunger, achieve food security and empower all women and girls. The first International Rural Women Day was observed in 2008 by UN. Rural women are key agents for achieving the transformative economic, environmental and social changes required for development. Rural women play a critical role in the in the rural economies of both developed and developing countries though limited access to health, education and gender differences are among the many challenges they continue to face.
The importance of rural women cannot be underestimated. The fact remains that a quarter of the world population lives in villages and about 43% of the agricultural labour force comprises women across the globe. Without encouragement and empowerment of rural women, especially in the Indian context, where women put in more number of hours to work development would be a far fetched dream. They suffer in terms of gender inequality, wage disparity, calorific intake as compared to men etc. Unless these gaps are bridged, one cannot foresee a strong rural economy. India continues to have maximum number of rural women workforce. The fruits of development, education and health have not reached rural women in India. The data from National Family Health Survey says that the gender disparity continues to increase in rural India. There has also been a decline in the jobs for rural women in India because of lack of literacy. The Right to Education has come rather late and implementation of RTE still remains a challenge in these areas.
India being a young nation, its priorities have been different since independence like food security and others and therefore, empowerment of rural women came rather late to the country’s priority list. Rural and agriculture is coterminous in developing countries. Observing this day will give some kind of enabling provision for the countries. This year’s theme says “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too”. 86% of the women in rural areas are involved in agricultural workforce. The Paris Climate Deal exhibits India’s commitment to the world’s goal of preventing climate change and temperature rise. But this matrix does not percolate to the micro level such as Indian rural women in near future. Since the UN has brought rural women to the central stage, it is required that the Government starts paying attention in this direction as soon as possible. Despite their significant role, their work is considered as household chore and unpaid work is not taken into consideration.
The Centre has enacted a number of schemes but it is known that health is a state subject. The onus of implementing these schemes falls on the states ultimately which have been falling short of expectations. The 14th Finance Commission has devolved lot of finances to the states which the Centre was previously taking care of. Now whether the states have that capacity to absorb these funds for the purposes they are meant to be used for is a big question.
Rural women hardly own assets in the rural landscape which denies them institutional credit and hence they are subject to exploitation. They have limited access to inputs, seeds, credits, climate-smart technologies or finance. Whether they stay back to care for their families when there is environmental degradation or disaster, migrate to find food, safety and decent work, rural women are clearly more vulnerable and marginalized.
What can be done:
- Awareness programmes need to be organized for creating awareness among women especially belonging to weaker sections about their rights and they should be persuaded to participate in these programmes.
- Women should be allowed to work and should be provided enough safety and support to work. They should be provided with proper wages and work at par with men so that their status can be elevated in the society.
- SHGs, more representation in Panchayats and monitoring of Government schemes like Stand Up India and Skill India in the rural sector would help in upliftment of women.
When women move forward the family moves, the village moves and the nation moves. Their development is of prime importance as their thought and their value systems lead the development of a good family, good society and ultimately a good nation.