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Empowering women in agriculture sector    

Published : Saturday, 3 November, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 1201
Mohammad Zihadul Islam

Bangladesh has a strong tradition of women's involvement in agriculture since ancient times. Women, who are involved in various stages of agricultural operations, make essential contributions to our agricultural and rural economies.
Their activities typically include producing agricultural crops, tending animals, processing and preparing food, working for wages in agricultural or other rural enterprises.
Citing 2005-06 Labour Force Survey, Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL) said, 77% of the country's 1.20 crore women workers are rural women. They are mainly engaged in different agricultural activities such as rearing of poultry birds, cattle head and fish farming.          
According to Human Development Research Centre (HDRC), in many parts of Bangladesh, agriculture is the chief occupation of women.
The female contribution to the overall economy, particularly in agriculture, is high throughout Asia (FAO, 2003).
Sources said women workers work equally like male counterparts from morning till evening and engaged in 17 out of 21 types of work in agriculture, but they have no legal recognition.
They face a number of severe discriminations such as appointment without due process, long working hours, fewer wages, wage discrimination and various types of repression.     
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said, women still face significant inequality on our world's farms. They have less access to resources; they get much lower crop yields.
Women farmers have basically no ownership over land. Hence, they are being deprived of getting facilities offered by the government for the farmers. If the women famers had received such facilities, their contribution to agriculture would have increased more.     
The international development community has recognized that agriculture is an engine of growth and poverty reduction in countries where it is the main occupation of the poor. But the agricultural sector in many developing countries is underperforming, in part because women, engaged in agriculture and the rural economy, face severe constraints than men in access to productive resources.
They do not have the right over their own earnings. Women farmers are largely excluded from institutional credit, training, extension facilities and irrigation management.
They are falling behind, because of their failure to use modern technology in agriculture. They face negligence in agriculture-related committees, formed by the government.
They face trouble in selling their products as market system is not women-friendly and there is transport problem. Besides, the government's drive to collect agricultural goods does not give importance to the goods, produced by female farmers. Hence, female farmers find it tough to sell their products at local and national level.          
If steps are taken to solve the problems, it would create a positive impact in the country's economy.  
Studies said a new deal for women in agriculture, along with necessary inputs and credit support could increase the efficiency of resource use and thus, contribute to increasing production.
Women in Indian Andhra Pradesh used micro-credit to take on lease lands that were being fitfully cultivated and develop them into regular cultivation with higher productivity than earlier.
Women's ownership of land could lead to higher and better quality production and more importantly, it can, enable them to control the use of household income for their wellbeing and other household members. It can also benefit women through reduction in violence.
Efforts in capacity development of women farmers, extension outreach, training in agricultural technologies and their effective rights to land and assets (trees, water bodies, housing and so on) can produce large and multiple pay offs.
Along with those, women's irrigation and management skill give them and their households a livelihood with dignity. These if done hand in hand, are stronger measures in overcoming poverty. Female agricultural workers should be integrated into the mainstream through better education, health and other support facilities.
Women should be taken as active partners in the development process. Capacity building and skill formation should therefore be made an integral part of any development programme to make it more meaningful.
According to an Indian study, development, which provides education and training to women, can enhance the productivity of all farm inputs. Since domestic and subsistence labour is unpaid, therefore women must be included in development which generates income, yet suits their needs.
Gender development is a necessary condition both for economic growth and human development. A new paradigm with women at the core will ensure better participation of men and women and help the society and the economy to grow. Women have the potential to contribute to agricultural productivity equivalent to men.
Planners should not ignore productivity of domestic activity. If development process emphasizes on the increased income generation through higher agricultural and domestic productivity, benefits would accrue to the community. Nutrition levels in a family will also improve with the increase in women's wages. Efforts by the government to achieve the goals for agricultural development, economic growth and food security will be strengthened and accelerated if the government build on the contributions that women make and take steps to alleviate these constraints.
If women's labour is recognized institutionally, it would be possible to ensure equal facilities for women agricultural workers regarding distribution of agricultural materials, seed, fertilizer, farmers' card, and loan.         
Then they would be interested in the sector, resulting in agriculture's increased contribution to the GDP.
Women empowerment is the reflection of gender equality, which is precursor to moving the country forward towards inclusive and sustainable development.
If their rights are not protected, our food safety will face trouble and it would also be difficult to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Development activists called for ensuring equal rights of female farmers in all state policies, incentives, training, loan programmes, and developing gender-sensitive agricultural technologies and offering training programmes tailored to the needs of women.
It is needed to introduce a good system for selling the goods, produced by female famers, at all level of market and ensure women friendly environment. Let us keep separate allocation in development budget for female farmers, and measures for their protection due to effect of climate change. The government should ensure necessary supports to them for their development, they observed.
They opined for giving priority to the women regarding distribution of agricultural subsidy card, agricultural services and social safety net programme.   
Our National Agriculture Policy 2018 needs to be amended, suiting to the needs of female agricultural workers. It is needed to ensure direct involvement of female farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs in formulation of all policies and planning on agriculture.    
Aiming to give proper recognition to women in national life, Bangladesh government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) declared by UN in 1981.   
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 5 stressed the need on gender equality. It says empowering women and promoting gender equality is crucial to accelerating sustainable development.
It is needed to implement the Beijing Platform for Action. 'Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action', adopted  at the UN organized 4th World Women Conference in Beijing in 1995, aimed at establishing equality between men and women everywhere from domestic to workplace in and outside the country.     
The Constitution of Bangladesh also grants equal rights to women and men in all spheres of public life [Article 28 (1) and 28 (3)]
Development activists called for taking up programmes in line with those national and international documents for ensuring the rights of female agricultural workers. 

The writer works for an online news portal

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