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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rural Livelihoods and Sustainable Living: Case-79: GENDER EQUALITY!

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The women of Kammuru village of Kuderu mandal in Anantapur district proved that when women get equal opportunities and status to access development initiatives, development is definitely faster. 

Before the formation of self-help groups and village organisations began, the women of Kammuru village had no say in making household decisions. They also got lower wages.  Other than agriculture, men did not bother to look for avenues of income. Women took care of the children, did all the household chores, took care of cattle and worked as labourers. They had very little control over their lives.

The table below compares the work done by men and women, earlier in Kammuru village. 

(Figures in %)

Particulars of Work          Women          Men          Variation

Household work          100               0          100

Cattle related work      100               0          100

Feeding the cattle         80                 20        80

Grazing cattle               50                 50       

Agriculture                   40                 60        40

Nurturing children         80                20        80

Managing the home       0                 100      100

Decision making            0                 100      100

When APRLP watershed programme was initiated in Kammuru village, self-help groups and village organisations were formed. The watershed development team organised awareness programmes and training for members of self-help groups and village organisations.

Women were required to attend the Gender Awareness training at Kuderu where they were made aware of various aspects related to gender differences such as the social and individual benefits of men and women sharing work and responsibility, the need for women to achieve control over their lives, and the role of income in gender relations.

The village organisation held a gram sabha where the contents of the Gender Awareness training were shared with the rest of the villagers. Self-help groups and village organisations played a significant part in achieving behavioural change in men. Women provided critical investment support through the self-help groups and contributed to better incomes. The benefits of being members of selfhelp groups combined with gender awareness campaigns resulted in men supporting women to participate in meetings and also to undertake small economic activities.

A change in the pattern of work-sharing was noticed. The box shows approximate figures as explained by the families. The relevance of these figures lies in the fact that there is mutual consensus on the change in the percentage of work.

Particulars of Work                Women       Men

Household work                   80        20

Cattle related work               50        50

Feeding the cattle                  50        50

Taking cattle for grazing        50        50

Agriculture                           40         60

Nurturing children                60         40

Managing the home             50          50

Decision making                  50          50

(The figures must be viewed as indicative only of perceptions and not as derived from systematic empirical study. These have been gathered through PRA techniques during informal discussions, when on visits to collect data).

Thus the watershed livelihood fund acted as a critical factor in bringing about a change in the attitudes of men and in creating a sense of equality. Credit at affordable rates was a crucial element. Earlier, when men wanted a loan they got it at a very high rate of interest. They signed promisory notes, provided mortgages and sureties. Many families lost valuables and on occasion even land and property to money
lenders. Because of women’s membership in self-help groups and village organisations, the families had access to loans with easy repayment in installments and with a low rate of interest.

While the men were happy to get loans on easy terms, the hidden leadership abilities of women came into the open. They not only extended mutual help to other women and supported each other but many of them also made a success of income generation activities.  In a short span of time women assumed a leading role not just in self-help groups and village organisations but also in their household economy. The power of collectivity gave them unprecedented security and social respect which also changed their status in the family.

Women were ready to adapt to gradually taking over important positions in relationships within families. That it was all done within the boundaries of tradition is important.

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