Patna : The hard fact that even though women do a substantial part of agricultural work, the State Government or official machinery refuses to acknowledge them as full-fledged farmers. Women in farming or ‘Mahila Kisan’ met at the state capital to compare notes, share their success stories as well as problems and challenges.
A State level meet on ‘Identity of women in farming: community, leadership, participation and challenges ‘ was organized on 29th June (Friday) at Vijayatej Clarks Inn, P&M mall. The workshop was organized by Mahila Aadhikar Moarcha and Mahila Kisan Aadhikar Manch (MAKAM).
It was inaugurated by Mr Vijay Prakash from Bihar Vidyapeeth . CARITAS Suisse, Beti Zindabaad, Makam and Action aid were the sponsors of this workshop.
Generally, the participants outlined the following facts: In the agricultural sector in Bihar, women are not treated at par with men. Whenever we talk of a farmer we always think of a man. One reason is that the marketing of the produce is handled by the men. In fact, 60- 75% of work related to farming is done by women, but still, there is no recognition for them. They are struggling for their rights and identity.
Men are migrating from their villages in search of labour or other employment, and all the responsibilities of managing the land and cultivation often fall on the women.
However local administrations do not record women as farmers, because most of the government programs are based on land ownership and on paper, the men are the landowners. Such rules disqualify women, who perform all the activities in the fields from sowing to harvesting, from applying for government schemes and benefits. Their names must be on the land deeds for women farmers to have access to government policies and schemes, some participants pointed out.
Over 70 women farmers and their supporters met at this workshop . Women farmers shared their views , opinions and the condition form which they are going through, in front of everyone.
They discussed the issues related to land, irrigation system, seeds, pesticides, marketing etc.
Some women farmers faced opposition from their husbands and families, who viewed the women’s economic independence as a threat. Even landlords tended to refuse to lease land to women sharecroppers, saying that women should work at home, farming is not for women.
Often the social norms restrict women from marketing the produce, operating farming machines and equipment, or being away from the house for such a long time, said Geeta, a woman farmer.
However, stories shared by various members of Mahila Samakhya units showed ways in which women collectives have used their thrift and credit programmes to invest and operate sowing and harvesting machines, put together seedling nurseries, and earn decent profits from the ventures.
In fact, in some places, women collectives negotiated with landlords and contracted written leases for periods of three, five, or seven years. On the basis of these written documents, women in some districts have managed to access good seeds and fertilizers under government schemes.
Usha ji, from Mahila Aadhikar Moarcha, said,’80%women work in the fields, but still, they are deprived of the facilities for farming, there is a need to develop the condition for women, economically and socially.
Rani , a farmer from Muzzafarpur said that she is working as a farmer and she has learned new technologies for farming to save time, she has learned about technologies from Kisan Pathshala (Farmer School) organized by different NGOs.
Another farmer, Malti , said that as a woman farmer she is suffering from many problems related to farming like an inadequate amount of water, bad quality seeds, due to which they are not getting the harvests which they are expecting.
Ragini, from Mahila Samkhya, said that the women developed a community nursery in her village, which provides good quality seedlings and helping them to earn more in a limited time. Next year 7 more community nursery will be established in her village, said Ragini.
Many other issues related to Kisan Credit and identity of women farmers were discussed. Women farmers identity are subsumed in husband’s identity.
Mr. Vijay Prakash, from Bihar Vidyapeeth, said that government should implement the policies in a appropriate manner so ,that everyone can get benefits. Forest rights should be given to women for land, water and other resources available in the forest. Credit and income tax concessions must be extended to women. Women can assert their independent identities by ensuring they have PAN no. and Aadhar card.
Government should not only focus on men farmers . They should treat both equally, both are the different sides of same coin. Women farmers really need to be recognized, he said..
With inputs from Sunisha Patel