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Re: Transforming gender relations in agriculture through women’s empowerment: benefits, challenges and trade-offs for improving nutrition outcomes

Haris Gazdar
Haris GazdarCollective for Social Science Research and LANSAPakistan

In many parts of South Asia women's work in agriculture is an extension of unpaid or low paid drudgery associated with domestic work - in fact it is more exhausting and taxing on their health and the health of their children.

What Joan P Mencher notes about changes in the gendered division of labour once implements are introduced has some resonance in our observations in Pakistan.  I believe that at the core of this gendered division of work lies the deeply structural social segmentation of labour - with women being paid lower wages than men. I believe that in many parts of South Asia gender wage discrimination in agriculture is probably more severe than it is in other sectors. The problem with labour markets is that they need to appear to be fair. So work that is particularly drudgerous (is that a word?) is often seen by social norm as women's work.  Men's work, by contrast, tends to be less of a drudgery and somewhat better paid. I believe that Nitya's observations about the gendered division of work can also be interpreted in this way. The observation of men having almost exclusive access to digital technology (Joanna Kane-Potaka) might be a manifestation of the same tendency.

Here is a blog I wrote on this subject on cotton harvesting based on LANSA research:

http://researchcollective.blogspot.com/2015/08/womens-work-and-wages.html

The backdrop, of course, is that agricultural work in general is drudgerous and low paid - for women AND men. So, in a way what Akmal Nazir says has an element of truth - that we should focus on the welfare of the household. But nevertheless, there is a strong reason in many parts of South Asia to focus on women agricultural workers. As economies get diversified those who are left in agriculture - men and women - are the ones who command low wages and poor working conditions due to their weak socio-economic positions. Within this group women are at a particular disadvantage. So, by focussing attention on women agricultural workers might be a very efficient way of reaching some of the most disadvantaged segments of society.