If there were four women for every ten males in the agricultural sector in 1991, there were six women for every ten men in 2011. This phenomenon of growing female engagement, especially in agricultural labour, is referred to as the feminisation of the Indian agricultural workforce.
Causes of Indian Agriculture Feminisation
Poverty is a key element that forces women to work as agricultural labourers to augment their family's income. Women also work as unremunerated workers in family fields.
Agrarian distress is a major cause of Male farmers' suicides that could have compelled the majority of female family members, particularly widows, to assume responsibility for household management. As a result, experts consider the feminization of agriculture to be the feminization of agricultural hardship.
Farm labour disruption or depeasantization, which is the movement of males from agriculture to informal employment. According to a 2013 survey published in The Hindu, 7.7 million farmers quit agriculture between 2001 and 2011. Women have been engaged in agricultural and associated occupations as males migrate from farm to non-farm activities.
Women's occupational mobility is limited, and this is exacerbated by gender pay disparities. According to the Census, around 33.7 percent of rural males move for jobs and improved economic possibilities. Females, on the other hand, had a rate as low as 3.6 percent in rural areas. According to the Economic Survey 2017-18, with increasing male rural-to-urban migration, there has been a 'feminisation' of the agricultural sector, with a surge in female engagement as cultivators, labourers, and owners. male migration to urban areas is main driver behind this phenomenon.
In comparison to males, women do not have equal opportunities. Women get little to no compensation, since their labour is often devalued, unrecognized, and invisible. Women are constrained to precarious and restrictive labour relations. Second, they are unable to migrate due to social, traditional, and cultural restraints, and as a result, a number of them work on farms to make ends meet.
While the perverse and dangerous challenges confronting India's agricultural sector are well-known, the problems confronting women farmers are unparalleled. These issues are multifaceted in nature, and women face a disproportionately higher degree of deprivation in terms of access to land, inputs, and markets, among other things.
In comparison to males, these women do not have equal access to opportunities or even to decision-making. According to the Agri Census 2015-16, women held just 14% of agricultural operating holdings. Due to this lack of collateral, a woman farmer's capacity to obtain institutional loans, subsidies such as fertilisers and seeds, as well as advantages such as payments under PM-Kisan or other governmental programmes that are primarily targeted at land owners, is harmed.
There is an additional issue. According to the Agri-census 2015-16, over 90% of women-owned landholdings are classified as small and marginal. Due to the limited size of their landholdings, these women farmers are also unable to capitalise on economies of scale. They produce a tiny proportion, bring a small proportion of marketable surplus, and get a relatively poor value recovery for that product owing to a lack of market options.
However, this feminization did not result in empowerment, since female workers are still underpaid in comparison to their male counterparts. Women are expected to still carry out the household chores, they are unduly made to assume responsibility of both public and private spaces for which they are not recognised and appreciated much. Society and government must appreciate the long-neglected workforce.
The government has recognised the need for pro-women farmer legislation in the areas of land, water, financing, technology, and training. This is an admirable objective, and with the right policies in place, it is possible to improve rural women's welfare and empowerment. Kudumbashree is one such example. It is a poverty eradication and women empowerment initiative in Kerala.
One such government project is Mahila Shakti Kendra, which aims to provide rural women with chances for skill development, employment, digital literacy, health, and nutrition. The Mahila Shakti Kendras would promote community participation via student volunteers and serve as a gateway for rural women to contact the government to obtain their entitlements through training and capacity development.
"Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana" (MKSP) is a sub-programme of the Deendayal Antodaya Yojana-NRLM (DAY-NRLM). It aims to improve women's current position in agriculture and to provide prospects for empowerment. MKSP acknowledges "Mahila" as "Kisan" and works to strengthen women's ability in the area of agro-ecologically sustainable practices.
Women SHGs are being linked to microcredit via capacity development initiatives and increased representation in various decision-making processes.
Inculcate the habit of savings and investment
Enable financial inclusion
Create employment opportunities in rural areas
Create awareness among women regarding government schemes
Make women more independent
KRITAGYA - KRI for Krishi meaning Agriculture, TA for Taknik meaning Technology and GYA for Gyan meaning Knowledge. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has planned a hackathon called "KRITAGYA" under the National Agricultural Higher Education Project to promote new technological solutions for improving agricultural mechanisation, with a specific focus on women-friendly equipment. Many agricultural machines are unsuited for women because their ergonomic characteristics (aerobic capacity, strength, anthropometry, physiological workload, job preference, an safety hazards) vary from those of males. This might be addressed appropriately by introducing women-friendly ergonomically built agricultural implements and equipment via well-planned and focused interventions.