Digital Divide and Empowerment of Farm Women

Women are the major workforce of agriculture production system in India. They participate and play a key role in a broad range of agricultural activities such as production, processing, preservation and utilization of food. Even though women constitute almost half of the workforce engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry, their involvement in decision, is very load. The right of women has been largely overlooked and in many instances their circumstance is little higher than that of farm labour. On the whole they have remained invisible workers. The major reasons may be lack of authority in decision making in agricultural land production, gender discrimination in the land, lack of awareness about the new technologies in agriculture and the poor access to female extension professionals for consultation about their farm lands (Logeswari & Thruchenduran, 2016). Empowerment of women will lead a conductive environment for mainstreaming them in developmental activities and utilize their potential with adequate reward at a grassroots level through providing them with both an established identity and knowledge on the varied aspects of agriculture. In today’s digital world, it is also important to think critically about the information and communication tolls which can help women farmers who may not enjoy much physical mobility to reach out to education, employment, decision making power, exposure to media which are generally considered to be male-centric arena. India’s changing digital landscape offering tremendous scope for women’s empowerment. The digital inclusion can empowerment women through improving their individual agency vis a vis by dismantling hostile norms surrounding gender.

Gender inequality in farming


Agriculture is having more potentialities than any other sectors to provide diverse opportunities for women empowerment. Nevertheless, women are held back by obstructions that prevent them from feeding their families and reinvesting in their livings. They face many restrictions.
Women do not receive the similar as male farmers do. They have restricted access to land, credit and machinery.
Women are closely involved in domestic things to do include caring, cooking and cleaning, which continue to be hidden economically.
Women are lopsidedly influenced by by climate change and face greater exposure to climate risks due to the same barrier that limit their productivity.

Major constraints impeding women’s contribution in Agriculture


Woman play a dynamic role in agriculture sector. They actively participate in farm activities and processing and value addition of farm products, in addition to their domestic responsibilities. Women as farmers represent the backbone of Indian agricultural and rural economy. Yet, their contributions are neglected since ages. Kushwah et al. (2018), identified challenges being faced by women farmers that hindering their contribution in agriculture.
Gender discrimination: Rooted in law and custom, in pervasive and impedes socio-economic development. Rural women are much more over-burdened than men owing to their multiple involvements. They, on an average, work for 15-16 hours a day. It reflect that farm activities, which are time and labour intensive, monotonous, respective and more drudgery prone, are generally delegated to women.
Development Bias: In spite of the contribution of women in the reduction process, persistent bias of development planners in treating them primarily as consumers of social services rather than producers, kept them away from the development programmes in agriculture and allied segments. Wherever the new agricultural technology led to multiple cropping, the work load of women has increased. Even where improved techniques have been found of the women’s activities, there is not sufficient access to training in such techniques.
Gender Bias: Women experience the ill effects of factual people, because of which, their contribution is not recognized. They often have heavier workloads that men and bear virtually sole responsibilities for family welfare and household management. However, they have either no or at best limited control over productive resource. This is even rooted in gender biases in labour markets and wage rates and has even resulted in their inadequate access to information about right, opportunities, and support programmes etc. Increasing feminization of agriculture and the agricultural workforce, with little acknowledgment of their role in land and livestock management, has meant that women have largely remained invisible to the government in terms of agricultural policies, schemes, programmes and proper support system like credit, extension services and marketing.
Limited access to resources: Large number of the constraints that rural women confront with are similar to those of all resource-poor farmers confront, such as restricted of access to land, credit, training, extension and marketing services. But, for social and economic reason, women’s constraints are more pronounced and, in general, development interventions that seek to remove constraints for poor farmers do not reach women. Rural financial institutions are also often hesitant to accept women clients because they are unable to meet collateral requirements and are inexperienced borrowers.
Inadequate access to markets: women engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishery tend to produce small quantities and have poor access to organized marketing and cooperatives. Therefore, women sell mainly to private traders and have low bargaining power, Institutions which promote women’s group access to market need to be strengthened.
Lack of technology refinement for women: Women only benefit from agricultural support programmes if the information, technology and methods. Imparted are relevant to their production activities. However, agricultural research in generally much less oriented towards adapting technologies to women’s physical status or towards addressing their tasks. Women’s low productivity stems mainly from lack of appropriate technologies suited to their work.

Domains of Empowerment


Empowerment of women refers to providing the necessary right and responsibilities to women in order to make them self-reliant. Empowerment of women is directly related to the second sets of right that are economic, social and cultural; which are ignored in Indian society. Alkire et at. (2013), suggested following domains of empowerment of farm women. The domain indicators are built on the following definitions.
Production: Involvement in decision making over agricultural production, processing and marketing, livestock production management and autonomy in agricultural production.
Resources: Ownership, access to, and decision-making power over productive resources such as land, livestock, agricultural equipment, consumer durable and credit.
Income: Control over earnings and expenditure.
Leadership: Membership in economic or social groups and comfort in dialogue in community.
Time: Allocation of time to productive and domestic tasks and satisfaction with the available time for leisure activities.
Barriers to women’s access and application of ICTs in agriculture
Women’s access to, use and control of ICTs in currently limited due to a range of reasons, including cultural and social factors, time and mobility constraints, heavy workloads, inadequate financial resources and low level of literacy and education (FAO, 2018). These will have an adverse effect on the efficacy of any ICT-based efforts to empower farm women, if the constraints are no longer addressed in an acceptable way.
Cultural and social limitations: Social values and norms can discriminate against women’s access to technology. It might be inappropriate for women to visit telecentres or cybercafés, or women may be reluctant to go to these places as they do not feel comfortable. This can be due to the fact that the telecentres or cybercafes are located near to a bar, and that it is unsuitable for women to visit that place. Cultural and social norms also restrict the movement of women, making it difficult to use of these centers, or even impossible. The perceived threat of exposing women to nuisance of unwanted phone calls also limits access to and use of phones by them.
Time and mobility constraints: Because of the multiple role and domestic responsibilities women farmer are unable to spare time for learning about and using ICTs. As compared with men, farm women tend to have a significantly more workload. They perform activities like fetching water, cooking, taking care of the children and cleaning, aside from the agricultural activities that they manage during the day.
Finance and control: Cost is one of the most significant hindrance to owning and utilizing a cell phone. Women are as yet hindered in the case of mobile phones, which tend to be increasingly accessible.
Literacy and education: Majority of farm women are illiterate. Illiteracy make it difficult for women to utilize ICT tool. Utilizing a personal computer and perusing the web can be significantly overwhelming possibilities.
Success factors to empowering rural women through ICTS
The computerized transformation has changed our working, information seeking and communication behavior. Digital revolution has offered opportunities to those can apply the new technologies and also presented new challenges for those who are left behind. Yet considerable potential of digital revolution remained unexploited, especially in the case of women, who play a fundamental role in agricultural production but also face a triple divide: rural digital and gender. Sometimes they tend to have less ICT exposure, leaving them and their families at a disadvantage. Here the FAO (2018) identified seven main success factors in making ICTs available and accessible to rural communities, particularly women.
Adaption of content: While ICTs can deliver large amounts of data, this doesn't imply effective use of it. Adaption of content to local needs, dialects and context often remains issue of challenge. Therefore, content should be adapted to local languages and repackaged to suit formats that meet the various information needs.
Create a safe environment for them to share and learn: Illiteracy and limited skills in using complex devices to access information and cultural issues, remain barriers to effectively receiving and using information delivered through digital tools. For example, uneducated and older farmers often have less developed digital skills and are therefore generally less likely to adopt ICTs.
Digital literacy in rural institutions and communities should be developed and enhanced, taking into consideration local needs and constraints by providing appropriate learning opportunities for men, women, youth and people with disabilities, which will enhance individual and collective decision-making skills.
Be gender sensitive: Gender inequalities remain a serious issue in the digital economy, as does the gap between urban rural populations. Access and opportunities for women living in the remote areas is constrained by the cost of access to ICTs, and by persistent disparities.
Several factors that restrict male farmers in adopting innovative practices also restrict the women to an even larger extent. Gender specific barriers further limit capacity of women farmer to innovate and become more productive. Gender, youth and diversity should be systematically addressed in the initial phase of empowerment of women.
Provide them with access and tools for sharing: Farm women have fewer access to ICTs, the phones, the laptops, the Wi-Fi, because they are confronted with social norms, because they are living in isolated areas and poor financial situations. The cost of access to ICTs could be very high. Pricing of broadband or mobile services is an important barrier for most vulnerable groups, such as women living in the most remote areas. Digital inclusion policies with gender perspectives should be promoted to enable men and women to access and use ICTs quality.
Build partnerships: Small, local private companies, local producer organizations and community-based non-government organizations (NGOs) often have the social capital to provide trusted information and good quality services. Diverse advisory and extension services offered by different service providers are more likely to satisfy the assorted needs of farmers, as there's no single kind of service which will fit all circumstances.
Provide the right of technologies: Blended approaches, such as a combination of radio and telephone and locally relevant technologies selected on the basis of in-depth- analysis of local needs and existing information systems, should be adopted to increase the efficiency of initiatives for ICT in agriculture, and better serve different users and contexts.
Ensure sustainability: The digital divide isn't only concerned with technological infrastructure and connectivity. it's critical that ICT initiatives target women and men, still because the larger nuclear family and also the community to confirm long-term sustainability. An inclusive approach to digital initiatives will help to generate widespread recognition that it is vital for women to be able to apply ICTs.

Conclusion


Women perform a crucial role in all economic activities including agriculture in India. The women contribute in a wide range of agricultural activities such as production, processing preservation and utilization of food. They perform key functions in the entire food system starting from the selection of seeds, sowing, manuring, drying, storing and feeding the family from the harvested product. Despite the fact that, farm women are the real back-bone of agriculture, their involvement in selection of suitable crops and adoption of innovative and good management practices is very low. The needs and rights of farm women have been mostly overlooked and in many instances their condition is not much better than that of farm labour. The possible reasons may be lack of authority in decision making in agricultural land production, gender discrimination in the land, lack of awareness about the new technologies in agriculture and the poor access to female extension professionals for consultation about their farm lands. It is high time to make concerted efforts to create a encouraging atmosphere for mainstreaming women farmers in developmental activities and utilize their potential with adequate reward at a grassroots level by providing them both an recognized identity and knowledge on the technical and financial aspects of agriculture. In today’s digital worlds, it is also important to think critically about the digital tools which can help women farmers who may not enjoy much physical mobility to reach out to education, employment, Decision making power, Exposure to media which are usually considered as a male-centric arena. India’s changing digital scenario is offering enormous scope for empowerment of farm women. Digital inclusion will allow women not only by developing their own actions but also by undermining hostile gender norms.

References

 

  • Alkire, S.; Meinzen-Dick, R.; Peterman, A.; Quisumbing, A.R.; Seymore, G. and Vaz, A., 2013. The women’s empowerment in agriculture index. World Dev., 52, 71-91.
  • FAO, 2018, Gender and ICTs: Mainstreaming gender in the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for agriculture and rural development, by Sophie Treinen and Alice Van der Elstraeten, Rome, Italy.
  • Kushwah, S.; Dei, S. and Kushwaha S. 2018. Feminization of Indian Agriculture, Key of Doubling the Agricultural Income. Int. J. Curre. Microbiol. App. Sci., Special Issue-7:4941-4945.
  • Logeswari, S. and Thiruchenduran, S. 2016. Empowerment of Women Farmers for Agricultural Development. Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research, 2 (8), 990-992.