Unavoidable presence of women farmers in recent protests

Sakshi Kaithwas

 

Whether it is the recent farmers protest or any other fight, women have always participated actively. It is not just about the protests, the participation of women in the agrarian sector is way more than what is depicted or portrayed in the media or through books. It is often a set-up mentality or an ingrained image that the image of a man crosses our minds while there’s anything being discussed surrounding the lives of farmers. It is typically a man who is either working on the field or looking at the sky waiting for the rainfall. The presence of women farmers is totally absent in our imagination. However, the contribution of women in the agriculture sector can’t be ignored.

Women are showing equal participation even during the ongoing farmers’ protest in the country. Hundreds of women farmers have marched to Delhi with their male counterparts as a move to voice against the new farm laws. The visuals of women moving towards Delhi along with their families with wearing sarees, salwar kameez and covering their heads with a dupatta is a stark picture that depict the feminine strength of rural India. However, it is often disappointing not to be able to view them in the pictures of farmers being circulated on social media.

It is not just today or this year, these women have been mainly contributing to the protests by preparing meals, large quantities of food for the protesters whenever they decide to protest.

A 62 year old woman farmer said, “Most of our time in a day is spent in cooking meals. We have been eating chapati with mixed vegetable curry for the past three days, which we cook for ourselves. We’ve brought ration in excess. We have food that could last for 5-6 months and we can manage till then. When we decided to leave for Delhi, each of us contributed different items. While some brought oil, some contributed spices and that’s how we collected food from different households. Someone donated their stove while there were others who managed bringing mattresses and quilts and we might need these on the way. When our ration gets over, we will bring more but we have decided to return only when our demands are met.”

According to Oxfam report, In India, the Agriculture sector employs 80% of all economically active women in India which comprises 33% of the agricultural labor force and 48% of the self-employed farmers. However, when it comes to owning the land, only 13% women farmers have complete control over it.

Six women’s organisations including All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan (PMS) and others said women, even though not recognised as farmers, are equally engaged in agricultural operations and a large number of them still remain as invidible contributors. The role of women cannot be ignored, the organisations said.