Women are the support system of Uttarakhand and a huge contributor to the state’s economy but even today they are invisible in many sections of the society be it is administration or legislation. They were and are a part of many movements, but not part of any policy making. Why?
Women have always been the backbone in Uttarakhand. They carry the burden of family and work on their shoulders. They are always on the forefront in the formation of the state, and many movements. The state’s economy is based on the work of women.
The average earning of a woman in Uttarakhand is Rs. 18.13 per day which is more than the per capita income of India. But the condition of woman in Uttarakhand is vulnerable. As per 1991 report titled Most Farmers in India are Women.The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in Indian Himalayas a pair of bull work—1,064 hours, a man—1,212 hours and a woman—3,485 hours in a year on a one-hectare farm.
Working hours and Income: As per 2011 census, 64% women in Uttarakhand are cultivators and 8.84% considered themselves as agricultural laborers whereas only 28.82% of men identified themselves as cultivators and 11.23% as agricultural laborers. ‘In rural Uttarakhand, women are contributing up to 90 percent of the total work in agriculture and animal care. The participation rate of women in the economy of the state is much higher than several states and also the national average.’
Even after so much hard work, she is paid off very little. Her domestic work and working on farms is not considered in per capita income of the nation. As per a study, a woman usually works for 16.49 hours on a daily basis, and work related to agriculture and livestock consumes 29.35 percent of her time. But most of the financial transactions, including the sale of the harvest, is controlled by men, not women.
Social evils: Consumption of alcohol is a very common sight in Uttarakhand. The opening of foreign liquor shops in remote areas has resulted in increased cases of crimes in the state. This has worsened the conditions for women, not only socially but economically also. Mostly women are dependent on their parents and husbands financially.
Women are hit the most by any environmental degradation and deforestation. And this why they are mostly concerned about having a safe environment and forest resources as the livelihood. Women farmers’ entitlement bill which has been introduced in Rajya Sabha has made no progress yet. The bill is aimed to provide land rights, water rights, legal land titles, equal returns for equal work, and institutional credit to women. Traditionally, mandua or finger millet is harvest in Uttarakhand, but slowly wheat, paddy, lentils and soybeans have replaced it. Women still use sickles and spades in terrains as there isn’t much investment done by cultivators for inputs and instruments.
Social taboo: There are many social taboos still followed in the state. For instance, a child is delivered in a cattle house and after its birth, the woman with her newborn cannot go out for a few days till the process of purification. In many cases, once the purification is complete woman goes back to her normal life which means to physical works including agricultural and domestic activities. She is not only socially but also physically exploited by the taboos persist in our society.
Education: The “English Pre-Mutiny Records” and Atkinson’s “Himalaya Districts” shed some light on the lives of women in Uttarakhand in pre-Independence period. The works of British missionaries and Arya Samaj was effective in educating women during Colonial era. After that, many educational institutions were set up and women do get educated but still the literacy of men is more than women in Uttarakhand.
Health: There is lack of knowledge among the women about nutrition requirement for their body. This is why there is high maternal mortality rate among the women and they suffer from various health problems like anaemia, weakness and vomiting. Also, inavailability of hospitals, clinics and doctors is an important issue for women living in rural areas. As women work barefoot and improper disposal of waste leads to high instances of hookworm infection in rural areas and causes anaemia among women.
There are some NGOs and government initiatives working towards providing education to women in rural areas. Women who are a part of the initiative have bank accounts in their names and have greater awareness of their own worth. Women remain unaware of policies like agriculture insurance, which is why we need greater autonomy for women farmers not just in terms of enterprise but also empowerment. Women are marginalised both inside and outside their homes because of lack of education, dependent economic status and least amount of control over income-generating resources.