For the fourth time in the last 18 months, India’s farmers — men and women, took to the Capital’s streets on Thursday and Friday with a hope of being heard. Loan waivers and better prices for their produce (MSP) are some of their demands. They marched on the Capital’s roads for more than 25 km from different locations towards Ramlila Maidan “demanding for a special session in Parliament to discuss and debate the agrarian crisis”.
Whilethese farmers are agitating for their demands, the women farmers face an even bigger battle — to be recognised. Let’s look some of several reasons why it’s important to acknowledge women are farmers too and why their voices shouldn’t be unheard anymore.
A woman farmer is seen walking with her luggage. She represents one of the millions of India’s women farmers. She also represents those who start their day before sunrise and continue working after sunset. She represents all those whose voices often go unheard — strictly due to gender. She is marching not only for loan waiver, but to also voice her suffering at the hands of patriarchal traditions.
These women farmers, who have come from different corners of the country, have travelled via every means of transport — from trains to tractors. They are sitting, and not in their respective homes, to tell the world how it’s also them who perform most of the big farming jobs in the country – right from sowing to harvesting. “So, why is it that their access to resources is next to nil compared to their male counterparts,” they ask.
Delhi’s streets turned into a tsunami of red as farmers carrying flags and sporting caps marched non-stop. Shouting slogans like “Ayodhya nahi, karzi maaf chahiye (We don’t need Ayodhya but debt waiver”, the women marched right ahead with anger, disappointment and hope – all at the same time. Women, in the role of farmers and agricultural labourers, contribute immensely to the country’s food security. However, reports suggest that they are paid 22 per cent less than male farmers. It’s difficult to fathom that even now, despite equal efforts, there’s a huge wage disparity.
The Indian society has traditionally been excluding widows for decades. While the ostracisation has considerably decreased in general, widows of farmers continue to face obstructions in more ways than one. The last few years have seen a gigantic wave of farmers’ suicides. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 90 per cent of suicides are by men. From the stigma of suicides to the difficulties in loan processes, the trauma of these farmers’ widows continues to rise as they struggle to make ends meet.
About 1,200 farmers from Tamil Nadu reached the national capital, carrying skulls of two of their colleagues who had committed suicide, a leader of the National South Indian River Interlinking Agriculturalists Association said. The group threatened to march naked if they were not allowed to go to parliament. According to Food And Agriculture Organisation, if women farmers had equal access to land ownership, credit, farming equipment and new technologies, yields can increase by 30 per cent per household and countries can experience an increase in agricultural output by 2.5 to 4 per cent.
This girl here participates in the protest asking for much more than ‘better prices for the crops’. These women ask for not only for administrative assistance, but also for a review of the legal framework, which is the need of the hour in establishing and ensuring equal rights of widows and children.
Failed harvests compel farmers to borrow money at higher interest rates in order to purchase seeds, fertilisers etc. They face added trauma by often mortgaging their land leading several to commit suicide in the end. When it comes to women, the fact that they’re hardly acknowledged puts them at the extreme end of the periphery. These women raise their voices to be taken seriously at the policy level and its implementation as well.
It’s believed that investments on women in agricultural sector can turn out to be a good economic decision. This will eventually lead to the strengthening of food security in the country. While the government has recognised October 15 as Women Farmer’s Day, the empowerment of women lies in the first-hand recognition of their existence. It’s a proven fact that celebrating days amounts to no structural change in frameworks, and for women farmers, it’s even worse.
These thousands of farmers are united under the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, a body of 207 organisations of farmers and agricultural workers. Earlier, on October 2, when the farmers protested in the Capital, they were stopped with barricades, water cannons and even tear gas shells. This time, as they participate in the two-day protest, the least they’re asking for is to be heard – loud and clear.
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