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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Rural women: striving for gender transformative impacts

Nitya Rao
Nitya RaoSchool of International Development and LANSAIndia

This is an important discussion in preparation for the CSW in March 2018. On behalf of LANSA (Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia), we had organised an FSN Forum last year (130) on Transforming gender relations in agriculture through women’s empowerment: benefits, challenges and trade-offs for improving nutrition outcomes. We had a very interesting discussion around similar issues and I will not repeat the points that emerged, but do look at the summary report attached.

While the feminisation of agriculture and agricultural labour is recognised in many countries of the world, women are still  not adequately supported to perform these roles, their needs and interests not given priority attention within agricultural policies, research and extension services. Recognition of women's economic contributions to agriculture and provision of equal entitlements are central to protecting their rights and helping them overcome disadvantage. Explicit legal recognition as farmers with equal entitlements as men is a precondition to removing inequalities in access to resources and services.

An important issue that has emerged in our research is women's time burdens, especially during peak agricultural seasons, when they end up working close to 14 hours a day, in agriculture and domestic work. As  agricultural work needs to be done, given the seasonal nature of work cycles, women's care-work is squeezed, with negative implications for their own health and that of their children. We find a particular trade off between agricultural work and care of the young child, contributing to the persistence of nutritional deprivation intergenerationally. 

Apart from ensuring equal productive entitlements, it is therefore also necessary to support women's reproductive and care work. This can be done through public investments to reduce rural women's drudgery by provision of basic infrastructure as well as time and drudgery reducing technologies. Social protection programmes need to pay attention to increasing women's choices, especially with respect to the season work-care time trade-offs. Further, alongside encouraging men to share care responsibilities, states also need to ensure the provision of reliable and good quality facilities for child care and feeding, especially during the peak agricultural seasons. This is because amongst the poorest, men often end up migrating to towns to earn a living, and given their absence from rural areas, cannot share women's work burdens.

 

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