The most ignored poor women working in the agricultural field in the rural and remote areas of province are the main backbone of the economy of the country. Sindh’s contribution to the country’s agricultural GDP is about 24 per cent along with providing food security and supply of basic kitchen items to the poor people of this vicinity.
Hundreds of poor women farmer are seen in the field while handling, stocking and cropping, but in comparison their wages are very low which hardly allow them to feed their family. They have been the main supporter of the male farmer in the rural areas of Sindh also taking the other household and kitchen responsibilities such as; cleaning the house, dish washing, fetching the drinking water and laundry, preparing food, caring their children.
They have never been encouraged or given any recognition at government level or by the landlords in the rural areas of the Sindh. Just working as a “servant” whatsoever their landlord asks they have to obey their orders.
According to survey report, Ms. Chanda, Ms. Devi and Ms. Veerjee few of the women farmers working in the field at village Qaboolpur of district Tando Mohammad Khan shared their views.
They said “Our work starts early in the morning till the sun-set without any rest, the nature of our work is very hectic specially during the hot season as the temperature rise it become difficult to manage in the field, but we never stopped working sometime our children also help us in the field.”
Chanda and Devi described that our work is not only limited to the agriculture field but we also do the work related to livestock and cattle. It is our routine practice to take the milk of buffaloes, cows and goats, which is used for our own feeding like; milk, yogurt etc they said. Sometimes, we also earn handsome amount by selling the milk in the market in city. They also contribute to family income by preparing handicrafts. These women do assist men folk in the fields also. Their joint efforts obtain better yield and more income.
Ms. Veerjee said the land owners provide us spray, pesticides and herbicides for different crops, which are very venomous and danger for our health when we inhale while spraying, but it is our compulsion and job to perform the duty. The allergies they develop make them ill, their skin festers, and they often die untreated, they said.
The majority of rural women are untrained, uneducated, unskilled and traditional. Being the reason they are always lacking behind in the smart working capabilities in their profession.
The role of agriculture and extension department in all districts of the province of Sindh is insignificant. Their inefficiency could be seen through the male as well as female farmers working in the field. The department never bothered to organize the seminars, workshops and training programs for the farmers in the rural areas, which is the primary responsibility of this department. As a result the more than 80 percent farmers working in the field are untrained and unskilled which affects on the low productive and less contribution to the agricultural GDP of the country.
Similarly, the Livestock department of Sindh government could not produce fruitful result in reforming the skills of the farmers in the field of poultry and meat. Using the modern techniques and modern methodology to save the time and energy lacks in the farmer community of rural areas of the Sindh.
Culturally, these women are hesitant and shy in nature. They do believe in the orthodox thinking and never come out to discuss their issues at any platform. So they always faced different issues in their profession unresolved. Such as; lack of latest machinery, equipment and other use of modern technology.
Women make up 43 per cent of agricultural workforce, but they own less than two per cent of land. If they have equal access to agricultural resources, poverty among them and their families can be reduced noticeably. NGOs working with farming communities have noted that per acre yield can be increased considerably if women have a say in agricultural matters.
According to Nabi Bux Sathio, General Secretary, Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) told this correspondent that
even with the major agricultural GDP share it is the most ignorant sector in Sindh, because the famers are 90 per cent uneducated. Never come-out for their rights whatsoever the wages offered to them by landlord they accept it.
He said poor women are the main victims of this tragedy because the main agriculture-related work in the field is afforded by them even their children also suffer with them but no any proper land reform law or policy is available to cope with the situation in these days.
Talking on the situation, Noor Muhammad research fellow on the topic of Rural Development, at Area Study Centre, Far East and Southeast Asia, University of Sindh said that women’s role in the development of agriculture is always prominent, but their financial position never been improved at a satisfactory level because of government’s poor policy and lack of interest.
A woman farmer sacrifices her life and children for the sake of economical development of the country but in return she is not getting even their proper wages of the day, he said. Mostly they live below the poverty line if compared with the international definition of the poverty and wages per day in Pakistan, he said.
He said half a billion rural women are poor and lack access to resources and markets. In fact, the number is estimated to have increased by 50 per cent over the past 20 years and today they outnumber poor men,” says UN’s Geneva Declaration for Rural Women.
“They work as entrepreneurs, as farm and non-farm laborers, in family businesses, for others and as self-employed, while they take on a disproportionate share of unpaid work at home. However, their contribution is limited by unequal access to resources as well as persistent discrimination and gender norms which need to be addressed to allow the realization of their full potential,” says International Labor Organisation.
There is a need for revising the agricultural policy to identify women’s role in rural economy. It should be gender-sensitive and highlight and determine women farmer’s policy needs with facts and figures. This will help improve the quality of their lives and their health and environment.