Women in agriculture

High unemployment rate in Nepal has resulted in high migration. With male youths leaving the country for different job destinations, especially the Gulf nations and Malaysia, women are left behind to work in the fields. This has added to women’s burden, as they have to engage also in farming apart from performing household chores. Women’s contribution hence in combating food insecurity has been quite significant. Despite their involvement in agriculture and contribution in minimising food insecurity, they are yet to reap equal benefits, as they are still deprived of equal rights and pay.

There are many studies to show that woman lack equitable access to productive resources like land holdings According to the FAO, worldwide, women make up 45 per cent of the workforce — rising to 60 per cent in Asia and Africa — but they own only 20 per cent of agricultural land. I live on the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley.

The main occupation of people in this semi-urban area is agriculture and their produces in general get good prices as they have access to the market.

However, the women I met and talked to would rue the pay, as they were paid less than men despite working for equal hours. One of the concerns they expressed was farm equipment which they said were “not women-friendly”, which was visibly true.  When I shared my experience with my grandmother, she recounted how she and her female friends were also paid less than what was paid to their male counterparts when they worked in the fields.

This shows the age-old problem has continued for years.

Woman-friendly agriculture tools, access to credit and loans, leadership and entrepreneurship building programmes focused on women should be prioritised and implemented. Women must get access to agriculture information through different means, including mobile apps. This will not only enhance their productivity but also make them economically empowered.

Women should enjoy equal rights when it comes to pay and property. Awareness campaigns also need to be launched to make women aware about their rights. Then Parliament in September last year passed the Civil Code Bill and the Civil Procedure Code Bill, aiming at sweeping reforms in the country’s civil law, including equal property rights for sons and daughters. The two bills will come into force in August this year. This will also address the issue to a large extent.