Despite laboring as hard as men do, women farm workers in rural India are paid only half of what men are.
A community-produced video by a rural reporter – Rohini Pawar in Maharashtra, India captures the images of this gender bias reflected in wages
Rohini lives in a village called Walhe in Maharashtra state. The village is known for its onion production. All the onion fields are owned by ‘higher’ caste villagers who do not farm themselves as they consider farming a ‘lowly’ job. So, every season between the months of June and August, the landowners employ 10-12 people in their fields to plow, sow and harvest onions. Over 50% of these workers are poor and landless women for whom there are no other livelihood alternatives.
The women interviewed in Rohini’s video are married, have young children and are the sole bread earners in their family as their husbands are alcoholics spend whatever they earn on their drinks. In the onion farms the women’s work includes weeding, seeding and watering – jobs that are tedious and require them to be bent over in the field for hours. As a result most end up with health problems such as acute backache. Also, most develop skin infections due to working barefoot in the wet fields.
Male workers, on the other hand, plow and irrigate the fields. These are considered ‘harder’ jobs than what women do. So, though men and women both work for 8 hours everyday, men are paid about Rs 125 while women get Rs 50. This is not only less than half of what men get, but is also far less than the legal daily wage for a rural worker in India, which is Rs 80 to 100.
Since farming is done in monsoon, women work in pouring rain – a reason why most of them develop skin infection on their toes. But few can afford to see a doctor as what they are paid is not enough to buy their daily meals.
The most worrisome fact is that this discrimination is fast becoming a standard norm in villages, taking deep roots. On one hand, farm owners say that the works of male workers are ‘harder’ than that of women. But on the other, they do not assign a woman any of those ‘tougher’ jobs such as plowing, irrigating etc, even if she begs for it. So, at the end of the day, not only the employers are saving half of their money by denying women their wages, but are also managing to make everyone believe that women’s work isn’t worth full wages.
There is a personal link between Rohini and her decision to highlight this bias against women farm workers. Rohini’s own family works in the farm and during the harvest and sowing season Rohini also works alongside her family members. So, she knows first hand the physical effort that a woman farm worker has to put in. She has literally been there and experienced what the women in her video do.
Rohini’s video is an effort to create awareness on this dual injustice faced by women. You can watch this video by clicking here and help stop this discrimination by spreading the word, so that these women get the wages they toil for.
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