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Gender Diversity in Rural India

Rangam Mar 13, 2024 6:01:46 AM

Women play a key role in India's rural economy as farmers, wage earners, and entrepreneurs. They also take on the responsibility of looking after their families, by caring for children and the elderly and providing food. Women in rural India are great multitaskers much like their urban counterparts, balancing home are work alike. But in most cases, the work of rural women is unpaid, especially in low-income households. The work often includes caring for the land and collecting water and wood for cooking. Women from grassroots and indigenous communities are often the custodians of traditional art and culture and are also the source of livelihood for the entire community.

Despite the contribution of women to the rural economy and social fabric, they have been subject to gender inequality, especially when it comes to education and income opportunities. Patriarchy is still deeply rooted in the rural psyche where inequality exists in the form of predefined gender roles. Rural women often face constraints to engage in economic activities because of age-old social norms, gender-based discrimination, and disproportionate involvement in underpaid and unpaid work. Gender inequality in healthcare, access to education, property, and financial services are a few of the other main challenges that rural women face on a daily basis.

Government action

The government of India has implemented several schemes and programs to promote gender equality in rural India. Community participation plays a major role here. Under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), more than 90 million women are connected with over eight million women's self-help groups (SHGs) that are transforming the socio-economic landscape of the villages in several innovative and ecologically responsible ways. Women can now get government support to access collateral-free loans through cooperative and regular banks. That aside, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) 2005 mandates that at least a third of all jobs generated under this scheme must go to women.

Government action is not only limited to guaranteeing minimum livelihood. Many village women are engaged in the planting of crops, foodgrain processing, fisheries, dairy and livestock rearing, handloom and power-loom weaving, and other similar activities. The National Agriculture Market (e-NAM), an online trading platform, was founded in 2016 to help women overcome the challenges they face in accessing markets. The National Cooperative Development Corporation also plays a key role in this regard.

Nongovernment action

A number of organizations are working at the grassroots level to bridge gender inequality in rural areas. Nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) are carrying out thematic interventions in remote villages, making people aware of the importance of gender equality. These organizations have come together to develop and enhance the collective agency of village women to access resources. The integration of gender perspectives into agriculture and natural resource management (INRM) ensures that program planning, execution, and monitoring consider gender aspects effectively.

Over the years, there has been an increased focus on building women's harmony in agriculture and related activities. NGOs are fostering women's solidarity at the district and state levels. They are extending connection opportunities to the Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, a forum of more than 120 individuals and organizations from 24 states, and other similar platforms NGOs are playing a key role in building collaborations among rural women so that they work together with mutual understanding and unity.

Promoting Gender Equality

India has been exerting its influence in multiple areas. The country has already set a high standard in the recent G20 summit, standing tall with leading world economies. It's time for India to implement gender diversity at its roots. There's a pressing need for more organizations to come together and promote gender equality that will ultimately help to uplift rural livelihood. A few organizations alone will not be able to resolve the complex challenge that involves political, economic, social, and ecological institutions. It's important to strike partnerships with stakeholders for collaborative action that'll lead to a large-scale transformative outcome and reach out to more women and families.

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