India: Women farmers struggle for equity & recognition, despite vital role in Rajasthan's economy Print E-mail

 Sunday March 11 2007

Women farmers tell tales of struggle for equality

Special Correspondent

BRAINSTORMING: Women at a function in Malpura in Rajasthan over the weekend to mark International Women's Day (Photo: Gopal Sunger)

JAIPUR: Women farmers who gathered at a function marking International Women's Day at Malpura in Tonk district of Rajasthan over the weekend highlighted their daily struggle for recognition and equality despite playing a crucial role in the State's agrarian economy.

The dusty town, 100 km from Jaipur, was the centre of attraction for women farmers of the region whose lives have evolved beyond the traditional roles of wife and mother. These rural women toil away in farms and provide labour for farming works ranging from soil preparation to sowing, irrigation and harvest.

With most men working as migrant labourers, women play a significant role in storage, handling, processing and marketing of farm produce even after the harvest.

Besides, they have to brace themselves against the heat and dust and walk for miles to collect food and water for their families.

The participants in the event -- organised by the Make Trade Fair Campaign, Oxfam, and Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants' Society (CECOEDECON) -- narrated their tales of forbearance and struggle to carve a niche for themselves and build up better lives for their children.

Kamla Meena, a 50-year-old Dalit woman, stepped out of a patriarchal system and rose to fight for women farmers in her community.

She said her vision of the world changed when she joined the demonstration for peasants' rights outside the WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in 2005, after joining the MTF Campaign.

"I learnt how the rich countries are squeezing us dry. It is unfair that when we in India do not have basic needs like water and power, farmers in the developed countries enjoy all facilities at a much lower cost," Kamla said, while taking exception to WTO's demand to minimise agricultural subsidies.

Another woman farmer, Janku Devi, said she could not get back even the input cost when it was time to sell mustard last year.

"But my place in my family is unmatched as I am the one who does all the farm work," she said with pride.