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Digital technologies provide a powerful tool for sharing and accessing information, including on health and nutrition. There seems to be a lot of diversity even between villages in one area, Joanna, from your experience, is this right? Are there divisions of caste or class that mediate access to mobile phones and indeed to information? Are there particular groups where women are not allowed to go to the markets, for instance? In Puducherry, I found women freely using mobile phones to contact wholesaler suppliers of pulses and tamarind at a time when prices were high to see if they could benefit from some form of collective/wholesale purchase. We definitely need more research and understanding of the role digital technologies can play, but also specific constraints that restrict women's access and use. Please do share any papers you may have done on this theme.
Thank you very much for the insights from Ethiopia, Dr Kebede. Please could you also share the paper you mention, or provide references? It would be interesting to understand in more detail why female headed households are doing better in terms of dietary diversity score. Is it because of a smaller household size? Are they male absent households? What are the processes and mechanisms through which better outcomes are being achieved? This can be very useful for our own practice.
It seems important to advocate for a recognition of women's contributions to agriculture, in fact, for women as farmers, in all of South Asia, including Bangladesh. This really seems like a first step to ensure that women then have equal access to benefits and services in their own right. Such policy change will not happen without our collective advocacy. In India, a few years ago, the Women Farmers' Entitlement Bill was introduced by Professor M.S Swaminathan as a private member's bill in Parliament. This was however not taken up. There is now a network of over 70 women farmers' organisations across the country, called Makaam, which is in the process of drafting a revised bill, with support from UN Women and the National Commission for Women. Legal recognition will at least provide a basis for claiming these rights. Given women's central role in agriculture, this needs to be prioritised.
Really happy to hear about the initiatives taken by the Agriculture University at Faisalabad. I think it is very important for agriculture graduates to be sensitised to gender differences in roles and needs and respond to them. Joan Mencher has raised an important issue about small implements and animal power. We need to understand why a strong cultural taboo remains and how this can be changed? With women having the major responsibility for farming, we need to make sure that their work and contribution are recognised by policy-makers and extension workers. At the same time, we need to try and develop technologies and tools that can reduce the drudgery of their activities in farming. We also need to develop technologies to reduce the drudgery of domestic work and free up some time for child care and nutrition.
Thanks Joan very much for your comments and queries. I have followed your work in south India for several decades, and your 1988 paper in the collection edited by Dwyer and Bruce, A Home Divided, remains one of my favourites. The insights from that paper are still relevant today and pertinent to this discussion. While women contribute most of their income to household needs, including nutrition, why do gender wage gaps persist in agriculture? Secondly, as you rightly point out below, agricultural work remains more compatible with child care and domestic work than factory work. In recent research in Coimbatore district, I found that younger women did prefer working in factories for a few years, but had no choice but to give this up, at least temporarily, following the birth of a child. In the absence of reliable and good quality child care, reproductive work gets prioritised.
I am really struck by your comments on animal power and small implements, and how these lead to a displacement of women's labour. I would really appreciate if you could share any insights/research/papers on this theme, including on SRI. There have been few recent studies on gender divisions of labour in agriculture and how these are changing, except for the reporting of a general feminisation in the context of male migration. I would have thought that in the absence of men, investments in tools and technologies would increase, but from your comments it sounds as if when technologies are introduced, particular activities may be commoditised and performed by men for a wage, rather than by women farmers, who in India are still recorded as 'unpaid household workers'.
Your work on control of decision-making also sounds very interesting. I too found that women want to control decisions in relation to farming and have developed their own ways of resistance if they are forced into something they don't want to do. The forms of influence vary with context - in North India I found women doing the work and making the decisions, yet attributing these to men, in order to maintain a facade of male control in a patriarchal context. Please do share some of your recent work on control over decisions as well as the role of implements and animal power in shifting divisions of work in agriculture.
A final point in response to your comment on managing agriculture and childcare. While clearly agriculture is more flexible than other forms of paid work, it was interesting to find during a recent study of Kudumbashree groups in Kerala, that women with young children were largely excluded from these groups. Perhaps they are not able to fulfil the labour commitments at the allocated times by the group, though they do manage their own farms.
Thanks Dr Njabe, could you clarify what the gender agricultural policies and programmes are? If they provide women recognition as farmers, then they should contribute to also changing social norms and cultural stigma that invisibilise women's contributions? Within the discussions on unpaid care work, the 3 Rs framework is now the major demand within feminist advocacy. The first step is to recognise women's work. If this is adequately done in policy, the other two, namely, reduce and redistribute, could potentially follow. In the case of agricultural work, this would involve developing appropriate tools and technologies to support and reduce women's work.
Thank you Dr Peter for your contribution. The Kudumbashree programme in Kerala has indeed encouraged groups of women farmers to undertake collective farming. While such policy recognition clearly support's women's empowerment, do any of the studies undertaken by KAU you mention specifically focus on food security and nutritional outcomes? Do migrant men contribute incomes to their families, or is a large percent spent on liquor? Secondly, while women are clearly involved in all the activities from planting to post-harvest processing, do they receive any support in terms of improved inputs or equipment to help reduce the drudgery and time involved in some of these activities?