RURAL WOMEN LIVELIHOOD
Rural women are significant and crucial for the progress of rural households, local and national economies. They form the backbone of the agricultural sector where they constitute 33 percent of the agricultural labor force and 48 percent of self-employed farmers. Eighty percent of farm work in India – including sowing, winnowing, harvesting, and other labor-intensive processes and non-mechanized farm occupations – is undertaken by women. In addition they contribute to food and nutrition security of their families, are primary caregivers for children, the sick and infirm and are responsible for all the household chores.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have gender equality and women’s empowerment at their core, and doubling agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, particularly women, is one of the targets. In fact rural women are critical to the success of almost all the 17 SDGs.
Despite their huge contribution to the rural economy in general, agriculture in particular and playing a central role in ensuring the well- being of their families, women are practically invisible in the larger macroeconomic policy framework. As a result they do not qualify to receive institutional support from banks, insurance, cooperatives, and government departments. Such poor access to resources coupled with traditional gender norms continue to increase rural women’s socio- economic vulnerability.
With the onset of the pandemic, rural women’s lives have turned even more difficult. Their access to employment and incomes have decreased while simultaneously increasing their reliance on loans from unscrupulous micro- finance companies. older children who had gone to the city to work have returned home. They are having second thoughts about returning to the city, which has added more burden on rural families in general and rural women in particular. Several women despite their advancing age are forced to continue agricultural labor.
Spoorthidhama’s Program on Rural Women’s Livelihoods
In the present context Spoorthidhama has initiated work in some villages of Mandya and Chamarajanagar districts to explore with women alternative livelihood options that are sustainable and reliable that make use of skills that women already have and local resources. Specifically the project seeks to fulfill the following objectives:
- Enhance income and earnings of rural women agricultural laborers and small and marginal women farmers.
- Facilitate rural women’s access to and utilization of government infrastructure and facilities available under various schemes and programs
- Form rural women’s collectives to enhance their bargaining power.
- Enhance rural women’s leadership and management skills to increase their capacity to access and negotiate markets
- Support women to articulate their collective demands and pressurize government and institutions to respond to the same.
The Program is being implemented in three phases:
- Identification of 10 villages in dry land areas of Mandya with a large proportion of dalit women agricultural laborers
- Needs assessment related to women’s current situation, interests, skills, activities that women would like to undertake
- Assessing the potential of the activity to generate sustainable incomes, linkages to markets, understanding the business cycle of the activities and finalization of activities – either individual or group
- Mobilizing resources for women / group to undertake selected activities
- Hand-holding while women undertake the activities
- Groups of women engaged in various activities across the 10 intervention villages will be brought together to form a Collective.
- Women in the Collective will undergo training to lead and manage the Collective processes, build an understanding of intersectionality of caste, gender and class that determines power and vulnerability, the importance of a Collective not merely for accessing economic resources but as a source of solidarity, support and a holding space for one another.
- Assessing the extent to which the intervention fulfilled its objectives, challenges faced and potential of its expansion to other villages.
Presently Spoorthidhama has undertaken the Preparatory phase of the program. Villages are being identified, meetings are being held with women in the communities.