TOPICS : Expanding women’s role in society

Women constitute more than half of humanity. And though there are differences between the needs of men and women, their roles, responsibilities and constraints, from the gender equity point of view, both are assigned equal status, both should have equal access to resources and equal opportunities to exercise control.

According to a study report conducted by ICIMOD, women in Nepal are found to be engaged in i) productive work, which contributes economically to the household and community, ii) reproductive work, which involves the care and maintenance of the household and its members and iii) community work, which involves the collective organisation of social events and services.

However, the study shows that while 80 per cent of women discharge reproductive work, only 20 per cent have any involvement in community work. On the contrary, males are found to be involved in activities that are recorded and valued. Following various international conferences on women (the most recent of which was held in Beijing), there have been considerable awareness and development interventions, thus increasing opportunities for rural women.

In spite of that, women still continue to bear a disproportionate burden in meeting household

water and energy needs, though, with the help of some international development agencies and donors, policymakers and rural development practitioners are trying their best to mitigate the drudgery of women by providing alternative energy sources such as hydropower, bio-energy, renewable energy or solar energy. The availability of water close to home has also made a huge difference.

For instance, the rural energy and drinking water supply programmes, most of them donor-funded, have been successful and effective, others have not produced satisfactory results. Successful programmes have enabled women to organise themselves and identify and prioritise their needs.

As a result, women are engaged in income-generation and community activities. The increasing women participation in community management works and community politics can be attributed to rural technology. The remarkable outcome of successful management of water and energy problems has indeed contributed to a perceptible improvement in the lives of women in rural areas. Free from the drudgery of household chores, women have been found to engage themselves in literacy classes, vocational training, awareness programmes and other income generating activities.

In a nutshell, rural technology has changed the role of rural women and helped them emerge as successful entrepreneurs, managers, social mobilisers, political activists and motivators. Rural women are now emerging as agents of social transformation. The intervention of technology in the lives of rural women has contributed a lot to mitigating drudgery, especially by easing the task of water and energy management.