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Farmer-the most endangered species

Women’s land ownership in Uttar Pradesh: Question of Empowerment

Posted by Ramoo on February 24, 2007

Some Historians believe that it was women who first domesticated crop plants and thereby initiated the art and science of farming. While men went out hunting in search of food, women started gathering seeds from the native flora and began cultivating those of interest from the point of view of food, feed, fodder and fuel.

Women have played a key role in the conservation of basic life support systems such as land, water and flora. They have protected the health of the soil through organic recycling and promoted crop security through the maintenance of varietal diversity and genetic resistence…Therefore, without the total intellectual and physical participation of women, it will not be possible to popularise alternative systems of land management to shifting cultivation and soil erosion and promote the care of the soil and the health of economic plants and farm animals.

That women play a significant and crucial role in agricultural development and allied fields including, in the main crop production, horticulture, agro/ social forestry, fisheries, etc. There is hardly any activity in agricultural production in which women are not actively involved. In spite of significant contribution in agriculture women have no control over the land. The social norms and old traditional practices are also a major factor that restricts women’s ownership of land.

To get a clear picture of the real situation of woman farmers the Survey in five different geographical regions of Uttar Pradesh was conducted by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group and other collaborating organizations. A total of 2500 woman farmers were surveyed on various dimensions. The focus of the survey was to identify social, legal and land related issues as that restrict the rights and interests of woman farmers.

The state of women’s control over the land presents a gloomy picture all over the state and the results of the survey also supported that fact. The high levels of gender discrimination in case of landed property in Uttar Pradesh cannot be denied because in U.P as the survey results show, only 6.5% women are legal owners of land while male ownership over the land is 87.6%.

It has been also seen that the legal title to land, access to it as a productive resource and the ability to exercise control over it and enjoy the fruits of one’s labour on it, have on the whole been denied to women. This denial to a large extent is responsible for the unequal gender inequalities within society and contributes to titling power relations of men against women. These gender inequalities in the society persist to a very large extent that denies women of their rights and powers. Even the legal and religious provisions regarding land ownership are also not favorable to women.

Women who have unparalleled role in agriculture are straight way neglected and sidelined wherever the question of money and power arises. She performs all the activities from souring to storage in her piece of land, but when it comes to marketing of produce and the financial gains, the power are snatched away from her hands.

The livelihood opportunities for women are based on their access and control over land. Almost all woman had a good and convenient access to work on their husband’s land but they exercised no control over it.

Another interesting fact turned out was that if at all female owned land in her name, the reason behind this ownership was not her empowerment factors. The ownership of females on the land was due to some exceptional factors as results show that 81% females are owners of land because they are widows and after their husband’s death farming was the only source of livelihood, on the other hand 19% females were owners of land because they were only child of their parents. In a nutshell, the concern of empowerment of women and giving them equal property rights was not reflected anywhere in the findings of survey.

Generally, women’s work in fields is that of a secondary helper of man and her hard work and labour is under-estimated. As per the World economic profile, women’s contribution is important and significant but the situation of women’s ownership on land is very weak and worse in the field of agriculture. Land is a significant form of property and is a critical determinant of economic well-being, social status and political power. The risk of poverty and the physical well-being of a woman could depend significantly on whether or not she has direct access to income and productivity assets such as land. Moreover, a woman’s economic status cannot be judged adequately by the economic status of her family. Even women whose parented or marital households are classified as rich peasant can be rendered economically vulnerable in the absence of independent economic resources. Within this general argument in favour of women’s independent access ti economic resources, the case for rights in land is especially strong. Land serves as a security against poverty, a means to meet basic needs. However, there is substantial evidence that the economic resources are in the hands of male household members which often do not benefit the female members in equal degree. The denial of property rights to women is a significant instrument of patriarchy especially if one sees patriarchy as a historically developed cultural ideological force, giving gender relations their specific character in each situation. Effective access to land is perhaps the single most significant determinant of economic and social status and power in rural India and “Women’s unequal access to it is one of the most important forms of persistent gender in equalities in India today.

In Indian society where patriarchal dictates determine the status of a woman, land policies and lands do not ensure fulfillment of this right. Legal systems are reluctant to interfere with personal laws. This maintains the inequality between a man’s and a woman’s right to property. These gender gaps need closing if indeed we are to move towards a more just society.

The woman farmer is the kingpin of agriculture not just a secondary helper. She is also the major and significant partner in agriculture. This is the truth that prevails about woman farmers but it varies largely from the real factual situations. On the basis of previous discussion, it will be concluded that, today there is a need to aware the woman farmers and getting them realize that they are the real hardworking farmers of our nation so woman farmers should be given land ownership and equal rights and men should include women in the joint ownership of land. Thus on grounds of women’s welfare and empowerment, there is a strong case for supporting women’s effective rights on land.

Laxmi Sharma

GEAG

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