[Kurukshetra December Summary] Rural Women: Key to New India’s Agrarian Revolution – Explained, pointwise

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India is celebrating and commemorating the progressive 75 years of India after independence and promulgating the mission of warranting women as “Empowered women, Empowered Nation“. According to the 2011 Census, India is an agrarian economy, with about 54.6% of the total workforce engaged in agricultural and allied sector activities. Agriculture employs about 80% of rural women. Hence, empowering and mainstreaming rural women workforce in agriculture can bring a paradigm shift towards economic growth.

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Why does India have to focus on the rural women workforce to achieve the new Agrarian revolution?

First, In rural communities, agriculture and the allied sector is the primary source of livelihood that includes 80% of all economically active women, out of which 33% constitute the agricultural labour force and 48% are self-employed farmers. Rural women are engaged at all levels of the agricultural value chain.

Second, As per Pingali et al, (2019), the ratio of women to men working in the agricultural sector has increased over time and made a greater amount of contribution to the GDP per capita.

Third, In 2011, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projected that women-oriented reforms, ensuring equal access to resources, skill development and opportunities in agriculture would increase agricultural output in developing countries between 2.5 and 4%.

Fourth, According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, with increased feminisation and pro-women initiatives, the percentage of female operational holdings in the country has increased from 12.78% during 2010-11 to 13.78% during 2015-16.

Fifth, empowering rural women will enhance food and nutrition security and alleviate poverty and hunger. It’s a win-win strategy for achieving Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Read more: [Kurukshetra December Summary] Fostering Innovation and Entrepreneurial Skills among Rural Youth – Explained, pointwise
What initiatives have been undertaken to improve the stature of rural women?

Since independence, several government flagship schemes and programmes have been undertaken to improve the stature of rural women in society by creating: livelihood opportunities and engagements in paid employment.

Various schemes, such as the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP)Deen Dayal Upadhyaya-Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY)MGNREGA, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), etc. have made significant contributions in creating gender parity and socio-economic empowerment of women in India.

Initiatives towards Gender Mainstreaming in Agriculture

This is to provide access to resources/schemes to rural women engaged in agriculture and allied sector. Under this, Special beneficiary-oriented schemes are laid by the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare to mainstream the participation of rural women. These special schemes provide for States and other implementing agencies to incur at least 30% expenditure on women farmers.

Various skill-training programmes include,

1. Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA) Scheme: It is also known as Support to State Extension Programs for Extension Reforms. The scheme looks to set up a decentralized agriculture extension system. 2. Skill training courses in agriculture and allied areas (of minimum 200 hours duration) are also being conducted for women farmers through National Training Institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) and others across the country, 3. Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has also undertaken the delivery of Gender Sensitisation Module on Gender Learning through training programmes, compilation and documentation of gender-friendly tools/technologies, Farm Women Friendly Handbook and compilation of best practices/ success stories of the women farmers, etc.

Empowering rural Women Farmers: Skill and Capacity Building

1. Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP) scheme, 2. Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission(DAY-NRLM): Under it, training on the use of the latest agriculture, allied techniques, agro-ecological best practices are being imparted to women farmers, 3. Biotech-Krishi Innovation Science Application Network (Biotech-KISAN), 4. Mahila Shakti Kendra (MSK) Scheme5. Specific women farmer training programmes on particular topics are also held. These topics include household food security by kitchen gardening and nutrition gardening; Gender mainstreaming through SHGs, etc. 6. Gender-specific interventions and their adoption are encouraged through training and awareness camps. 7. Farmers  Producer organisation (FPO) and women self-help groups (SHG’s) played a significant role in the dissemination of these programmes amongst rural women.

Over the years, rural women participation in training sessions has been increased to many folds.

Reforms for Social Empowerment of rural women: Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas

1. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme: provided a significant mass mobilisation drive towards the elimination of gender discrimination and improved sex ratio at birth, 2. National Creche Scheme, 3. Ujjawala Scheme, 4. Integrated Mission Shakti, Mission Poshan 2.0, and Mission Vatsalya, 5. After 33% reservation, now as much as 43% of the seats at village and district levels have women members.

Financial Empowerment of Rural women

1. Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY): According to the Ministry of Finance 2021 data, 55.47% of accounts opened belong to women and 66.69% of accounts belong to rural and semi-urban areas, 2. Women-specific provisions are also present in Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY), Stand-Up India Scheme. Over 9 crore women have benefitted jointly from Mudra and Stand-Up India since its inception.

What are the challenges faced by rural women?

-Poor literacy rate: Low level of education among rural women is one of the important causes of their dismal participation in developmental activities.

– In Agriculture, women farmers face challenges such as 1. Lack of ownership of land, 2. Lack of access to financial credit, 3. Lack of safe transport: Mobility of Rural women to access markets and workplaces is difficult, 4. Lack of access to resources and modern inputs: As most farm machinery is difficult for women to operate.

Triple burden on rural women: Socially home-making, agriculture and child upbringing all fall in the hands of women. This made women have no time for skilling themselves.

Wage Inequality:  Rural women’s wages are rarely equal to men’s wages, with a few exceptions.

What should be done to further improve the statue of rural women?

The participation of rural women in the workforce can be encouraged by providing safety, security, good health, education, skill development and equal rights. Further, the government has to conserve the sex ratio percentage in the population and prevent female infanticides.

Adequate investment in pro-rural woman schemes and more community-level participation will expedite the empowerment in a mission mode for better future prospects.

Skill development and access to education, health care and digital ecosystem can play a significant role in the lives of rural women. The government should accelerate its effort in such areas.

To improve women’s participation in Agriculture: 1. Under the micro-finance initiative of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, Rural women farmers can be provided credit without collateral. 2. Manufacturers should be incentivised to produce tools and machineries suited to women’s needs.

Proper training and capacity building of rural women on new agricultural technologies will improve not only the Indian economy but also Indian polity, society and culture.

Source: Kurukshetra December 2021

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