Female Farmers in U.P. Becoming Agents of Social Change
Down To Earth, one of our favourite sustainability & science publications recently covered an inspiring story of rural women in Uttar Pradesh banding together to form a movement demanding their rights to their ancestral agricultural lands.
The article covers the successful story of Suresho Saini who fought for her 1.6 hectares of ancestral agricultural land when her husband and in-laws deserted her. Fearlessly, Suresho fought for her rights and later convinced her parents to deed part of their lands to her sisters as well, ensuring economic independence for the women of the family.
It is estimated that in India, 75% of the agricultural work is executed by women vs the 59% executed by men, but only 11% have any ownership over the country's land. When women do not own the land they work on, it means they are formally not recongized by the Indian government as a farmer.
The article also covers an initiative "Aroh" spearheaded by a local environmental organization 'Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group' (GEAG), funded by Oxfam India. The Aroh initiative campaigned for joint ownership of land between husband and wife in order to ensure women had access to their agricultural lands. It covers both the successes and challenges faced by the program in ensuring women get their fair share of the agricultural pie.
If women are not recognized as farmers by trade, they then do not have access to the benefits given by the Indian government, which further stifles development and entrepreneurship amongst rural communities. It also fuels a plethora of gender issues for women creating economic dependence on their spouses and family, most likely stifling their ability to provide adequate healthcare and education to their children.
It has been documented that generation of income leads to increase of confidence, thereby leading to greater community participation allowing them to become pillars of their community. This often translates into improved education for children (especially girls), improved sanitation and improved local governance.
It seems it would serve the Indian government well to acknowledge and support female agricultural workforce as an agent for stronger economic growth and an agent for social development. For us at AES, we applaud the efforts GEAG and the brave faces of hte female farmer movement in India and hope that others soon follow suit!