RURAL WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA MEENAKSHI APTE Rural development...
RURAL WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
Rural development is the most important problem that our country faces today. It
covers the whole area of economic and social development which includes production,
employment, health, education, political and social tensions and so on. This article covers
the situation in respect of rural women, surveys the welfare services provided for them in
the last 30 years, and suggests ways of involving rural women in development.
Mrs. Meenakshi Apte is Reader in the Department of Family and Child Welfare, Tata
Institute of Social Sciences, Deonar, Bombay 88.
I. DEMOGRAPHIC PERSPECTIVE
women tend to
outnumber men in advanced
countries whereas in the less developed
The Sex Ratio
world there are more men than women.
When compared to the sex ratio of the
The sex ratio of a population is not a advanced European countries, it is noticed
purely biological phenomenon but is a that the sex ratio is low. Even within India
result of biological and social factors which with the exception of Kerala the sex ratio
cannot be easily separated. Biological shows variations which are related to the
phenomena do not vary much from one
country to another. But the sex ratio in development of each state in the country.
advanced countries is significantly different The Sex ratio of rural and urban popula-
from that of the developed countries, i.e. tion is as follows:
SEX RATIO RURAL URBAN
RELIGIONWISE SEX RATIO
SOME OTHER COUNTRIES
Rural — 949
Buddhists — 962
U.K. — 1060
Urban — 858
Jains — 940
Germany — 1056
All India — 932
Christians — 930
U.S.A. — 1054
Hindus — 930
U.S.S.R. — 1170
Muslims — 922
Pakistan — 900
(Census of India 1971)
(Women in the World)
It is observed that from the 1921 Census the male and female is increasing.
onwards the number of women per 1000
men is decreasing in the last 30 years.
EXPECTATION OF LIFE AT BIRTH
1921 1931 1941 1951 1961
945 950 945 942 932 1921-31
Expectation of life at birth
Expectation of life at birth shows im-
provement for females but the gap between
: Various Census Reports)
When we consider the expectation of
It is observed that most of these states
life at different ages for the period 1951-61, form the heart land of the country.
we find that at all ages below 40, the ex-
Marriage is the common lot of rural women.
pectation of life is lower for females. This A case of a woman remaining unmarried
is probably due to the high maternal after 30 is usually unheard of in rural areas.
mortality rate and infant mortality rate in With early marriage, compulsory marriage,
rural area. According to SRS data for the child birth and family responsibility women
rural areas of 12 states of India as a in rural areas have to suffer a large number
whole, the infant mortality rates for females of handicaps in terms of their health and
was 148 per 1000 live births compared to employment opportunities.
132 for males. The neo-natal mortality rate,
according to SRS data of 1969. was 74
per 1000 males and 76 per 1000 female. PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF FEMALE POPULATION
While post-neo-natal mortality was 59
AGED 10 YEARS AND ABOVE BY MARITAL
for males and 72 for females. It is a safe
generalization that the infant mortality Marital Status Years
rate is higher among females in rural
India as a whole. In the five yearly age Unmarried
groups from 0-4 to 30-34 the female death
rate is generally higher. Various reasons Married
are attributed, such as general dislike for
girls in early age, early marriage, early and Widowed
repeated child birth etc.
Age at Marriage
The average age at marriage for boys is
22.2 while for girls it is 17.2. The 1961 (Towards Equality: Committee on Status of
Census shows that in more than one-third of
Women in India)
the total districts in India, the age of mar-
It is to be noted that the percentage of
riage for girls is less than 15. Most of these the divorced and separated is practically
districts are in the States of Madhya Pradesh, negligible. Most of the women marry
Bihar, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
young which increases the reproductive span
of life and as a result our birth rate is
N o . OF DISTRICTS IN EACH STATE WHERE THE very high in the rural areas.
AVERAGE AGE AT MARRIAGE FOR FEMALES IS L E S S
THAN 1 5 YEARS
BIRTH RATE RURAL AND URBAN
where age of
marriage is 15
(Towards equality: Committee on Status of
The SRS data indicate rural urban
Women in India).
RURAL WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
differences in the birth rates. Some of it India, while Rajasthan has the lowest rate.
may be due to the spread of family plan-
A detailed study based on the district data
ning in urban areas. According to SRS reveals that out of 352 districts in India,
data, in rural areas of India (1969) the in 83 districts the female literacy rate is
average number of children bora alive to less than 5 per cent and there are another
mothers in the age group 40-44 was 6.4. 113 districts where female literacy rate is
This gives an idea of completed family between 5 to 10 per cent.
size in rural area. By the time a woman
is 35, she has rouahly 5 children
FEMALE LITERACY RATE IN RURAL & URBAN
INDIA, 1971 CENSUS
AVERAGE NUMBER OF CHILDREN BORN ALIVE TO
CURRENT MOTHERS BY AGE GROUPS IN RURAL
Average number of
1 5 - 1 9
2 0 - 2 4
2 5 - 2 9
3 0 - 3 4
3 5 - 3 9
4 0 - 4 4
Jammu & Kashmir
(Towards Equality: Committee on Status of
Women in India)
A review of some of the latest studies of
differential fertility carried out in different Meghalaya
parts of the country indicates that gene-
rally the levels of education and fertility Nagaland
are inversely related. The attitude towards Orissa
family planning which involves the atti-
tude of the couples towards family size, Rajasthan
need for a son, spacing, approval and birth Tamil Nadu
control methods has been closely associ-
ated with the educational attainment of Uttar Pradesh
the couples in almost all major surveys West Bengal
undertaken in India. Inspite of the differ-
ences in the size and characteristics of the
Census of India, 1971)
samples used in different surveys and
different levels of education used by them
In the light of the available data, it is
as the basis of analysis education plays a important to discuss women's education in
very important role.
India. A substantial advance in women's
education as also in other spheres of educa-
Literacy Rates and Education
tion came out only after independence.
This is seen in various reports published by
The 1971 Census shows higher literary the government. The figures show re-
rates in the younger generation. Kerala has markable expansion of women's education
the highest literacy rate in rural and urban both in absolute terms as well as relatively
to the educational advance amongst men satisfaction at the slow progress of women's
during the last twenty-five years after education in the first decade of independence
independence. Inspite of this expansion and its very first recommendation asked
enrolment of girls at all stages lags behind the government to regard "the education
that of boys.
of women as a major and special problem
in education for a good many years to
T A B L E 8
come and urged the government to close
the existing gap between the education of
LITERACY R A T E S BY A G E G R O U P S INDIA, 1971
men and women in as short a time as
possible" (Committee on Women's Educa-
tion, 1959). Accordingly, special efforts
were made from 1960 as a result of which
enrolment of girls improved substantially
5 - 9
in the subsequent years. One of the special
measures adopted was to start separate
educational institutions for girls parti-
cularly in those areas where social pre-
2 0 - 2 4
judices inhibited enrolment of girls in co-
educational schools. Another factor which
contributed to expansion of female educa-
tion was the recruitment of female
teachers at all levels particularly so in rural
Considerable amount of thinking has
One out of every three girls in the age gone into the question of women's educa-
group 6-11 is out of school. The proportion tion in India during the post-indepen-
of enrolment of girls to the female popula-
dence period. A number of committees
tion in the corresponding age groups and commissions appointed to consider
rapidly decreases as one goes on to the the problems of education at various
higher stages of education. Since very few stages, as well as the education commis-
rural women are involved in higher educa-
sion 1964-66 which considered almost
tion, we need not see in detail the propor-
every aspect of education have stressed the
tion of girls in higher education and can urgent need of paying special attention to
safely generalise that the gains of higher women's education. Every Plan document
education do not reach rural women.
has also emphasised the importance of
The rate of school drop-outs is also high women's education for India's rapid
at the primary stage where out of every social and economic development. It will
100 girls enrolled in Class I, only about 30 be worthwhile to see some of the draw-
reach Class V, and almost half of those backs in women's education because it is
who drop out of the school leave school through proper education alone women
in Class I itself. This has serious conse-
can participate in development.
quences for female literacy which has
On primary education and literacy, the
inched from 7.93 per cent in 1951 to 18.44 constitution of India had stipulated by a
per cent in 1971. The National Committee directive principle that compulsory ele-
on Women's Education in its report sub-
mentary education of eight years be pro-
mitted in 1959 had expressed great dis-
vided to all children of age group 6-14 by
RURAL WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
1960. Not only does this promise remain
unfulfilled today but it has been found
LITERACY IN INDIA
impossible to enrol in schools even the
lower elementary age group or 6-11 (Class
I to V) in full. The serious shortfall is
largely due to low enrolment among the
weaker sections of society namely women
in general and boys in scheduled castes,
scheduled tribes and other depressed sec-
tions. Girls' enrolment from the scheduled
castes and the scheduled tribes is very low.
In fact, in certain backward areas educa-
tion of girls has hardly made any beginning
"A number of social surveys of rural
in last 30 years after independence. It has and urban population have tried to relate
been noted earlier that one-third of the age educational progress and other progress
group 6-11 do not enter the school and with important socio-economic factors
those who enter drop out in the first such as caste, income, land holding, and
standard. This means that more than half occupation". The gains of female educa-
of the younger generation of girls go into tion, in fact, of most education, have gone
life without literacy. This along with the to the urban population, advanced and
slow rise in female literacy, the total num-
middle castes, and economically more
ber of illiterate women is also increasing affluent sections of population while
from decade to decade, for instance from rural, backward caste and poorer sections
18,5 crores in 1961 to 21,5 crores in 1971. are trailing far behind (Kamat, 1977). The
Further, inspite of the large number of education of girls has made little headway
women covered by adult literacy pro-
among low castes as well as among Muslims
grammes, it has had no impact on total and other economically deprived sections
literacy. This means that another con-
like poor peasants and agricultural labou-
stitutional commitment of removal of rers. All social investigations show that
illiteracy remains unfulfilled. Whatever backwardness of female education is in
progress has been achieved in girls" general closely associated with social,
education is extremely uneven. "There are economic and cultural deprivation.
serious imbalances as between different
"The girls who do not join the school
states, different regions in a state, urban stream at all largely belong to the lowliest
and rural areas and socio economic strata. and poor and those who drop out also
A vast continuous geographical stretch of belong to the next layer of the poor. This
India and particularly the heart land of means that the process of social selection
India is completely backward in all stages starts from the very first stage of educa-
of female education" (Kamat, 1977). The tion. A similar relentless sifting process
Table below from 1971 Census shows the goes on working on those few who survive
rural urban imbalances as well as the in the educational channel in its successive
extremely depressed position of the higher stages (Kamat, 1977).
scheduled castes and scheduled tribes both
So far we have not touched the contents
with respect to absolute magnitude of of female education in rural areas. But one
female literacy and male-female
can very well generalise that vocational
training for girls is almost absent in rural
area. The only available occupation for world are generally confronted with a
them is to work as construction labour, discriminatory attitude in varying degree on
or agricultural labour on farms. But the grounds of sex in matters of employment
objective of female education has been to opportunities, wages paid and working
equip them (if at all they study) with bare conditions, it is more true of the developing
literacy and some contents of child care, countries. The problem of finding adequate
health and hygiene. While poverty is an employment avenues for women has
all India phenomenon, we get state level acquired international importance. There is
variation in the economic condition of a wide range of difference amongst the
people. Since women and children become various countries of the world. Differences
major sufferers of poverty, we will have to exist between agricultural and non-agri-
see that poor women also get the benefits cultural countries. From the data available,
it is also observed that there exists a
relationship between the political system of
Female Work Participation
a country and female work participation. In
communist or centrally planned economies
The main characteristic of economic more women are absorbed in the total
development is the progress towards an labour force. In general, European coun-
increasingly intricate pattern of labour tries have more participation of women
specialisation. In communities at the rural than those in Asia and Muslim part of
level both men and women contribute to Africa. Within African countries, countries
the family economy because most of the where there is more tribal population have
job opportunities involve rudimentary more females in work compared to those.
skills. It is the economic compulsion, more with Islamic population.
than any other consideration which
motivates women in rural areas to seek
Below 10% - Islamic coun-
employment for wages. Such women are
tries. Iraq, Iran.
drawn from the poorest strata of the rural
society comprising mostly of the landless
agricultural labour force. Although the Between 10 to 20% — latin America.
employment in agriculture is in itself
seasonal, the employment of women is all
Between 20 to 30% South East Asian
the more sporadic as they are generally
tied to child-bearing and child-rearing 30% + — Tribal Africa,
functions and the other domestic chores.
The Rural Labour Enquiry Committee
estimated that there were about 11 million
In the first group come most of the
landless agricultural labour households in Islamic countries where women observe
1964-65 which constituted 37.6 per cent of purdah system. The Islamic tradition keeps
the total agricultural labourers from such women away from work participation. In
households. The only opportunity of work-
South East Asian countries there is a tradi-
in rural area is agricultural work and agro-
tion of women playing an active role in
based small scale industries. It will be agriculture because of the cultivation of
worthwhile to see female work participa-
tion in India.
In the light of International work parti-
While women in all the countries of the cipation rates, it will be worthwhile to see
RURAL WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
female work participation within India. works as landless labourers. Some of the
Economic and cultural factors play a very reasons given for more work participation
important part in drawing women to work of women as landless labourers can be
in the Indian situation. From the Table 10 explained in terms of (a) most agricultural
we will see that the largest number of operations are simple and do not require
women are employed in agriculture in skills, (b) female employment in agriculture
rural areas most of whom are landless is of seasonal nature and women are not
required to be away from homes, (c) since
the wages paid to female workers are low,
employers find it economical to employ
them, (d) in agriculture women could be
EMPLOYMENT IN VARIOUS FIELDS
made to work for extra hours.
(figures in millions)
Within India statewise female participa-
tion shows a wide range of difference
among the 17 major states. The lowest is
that of Punjab and the highest is that of
Andhra Pradesh. Within this wide range
of differences one can see most of the
patterns found to prevail in the under-
developed agricultural countries. The
northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab,
Jammu and Kashmir, are somewhat similar
to the Muslim countries in their cultural
way of life. It has an effect on female
participation. On an individual level, as the
job opportunities for male members
improve, family income goes up and women
may withdraw from labour market as the
work for them is not attractive.
In terms of per capita income, Punjab
and Haryana are quite ahead of other
states. In both these states the total
participation rates of women are 1.67%
(Punjab) and 3.1% (Haryana) respectively.
Even the states like Jammu & Kashmir,
Rajasthan, Bihar, Orissa, where the per
capita income is low the participation rates
also are low. D'Souza, who had undertaken
empirical analysis of female work parti-
cipation in a city of Punjab observed,
'why most of the women work is because
of the low income of their men folk. When
the husbands income is not adequate
(Figures in brackets show %)
enough to support the family, the wife is
also compelled to work. This hypothesis
The single largest group of women agrees with the fact that the vast majority
of women are employed at lower occupa-
specialised worker in agriculture or crafts
tional prestige level jobs and it can be is trained within the family, the difference
argued that their husbands' also are in male and female productivity remains
employed on lower prestige jobs with very small. But the gap in productivity between
low income. This hypothesis is further the two sexes widens considerably at the
corroborated by the data pertaining to stage when boys get systematic training in
rural agricultural labour families which schools or workshops while girls continue
show that the higher the wage rate for to be taught only by their mothers.
men, the lower is the number of women "Employment in the modern days requires
per family in the working-force. It has been not only formal education but also a certain
observed that the nature of the crop grown attitude to work which may best be des-
has a direct relation with female work cribed as the capacity to work regularly
participation. For cultivation of rice, women and attentively. This attitude is not easily
are specially suited for certain kinds of acquired by people who are accustomed to
activities, for cultivation of wheat heavy come and go, to work and rest as they
masculine skills for ploughing etc., are like. Those who work within the confines
required. It has been observed that out of of the family are not likely to acquire this
rice-growing states, only Andhra and Tamil attitude unless their condition is so pre-
Nadu have high participation rates. Even carious that they will be forced into
Kerala where 99 per cent of the land is working longer and harder in order to
under rice cultivation, only 14.29 per cent survive" (Boserup, 1970). It is well known
women are in agriculture. In wheat growing that people who are accustomed to hard
areas also there is great variation. On the work in intensive agriculture are more
one hand, there are Punjab and Haryana able to adapt themselves to other types
with the lowest female participation rate of work than are people accustomed to
and Himachal Pradesh with the highest the more leisurely rhythm of work in
shifting cultivation. "Labour productivity
Rural Labour Inquiries
of women in developing countries is
1956-57. 1964-65) throw some light on the inferior to that of male workers from the
economic conditions of women workers same community because women have
employed in agriculture. Women belonging lower level of education and training"
to agricultural labour households had work (Boserup, 1970).
for about 180 days during 1964-65. Thus, II. Programme for Womens' Welfare
almost for half the year they were out of
(covering Rural Women)
employment. Out of these 180 days, wage
paid days were only 141. The daily wages
So far we saw some of the characteristics
varied from region to region and were not of women in India, their situation as
more than 85 N.P. in 1964-65.
regards education and employment parti-
The productivity of female labour ~—"A cularly. In 1950. when the constitution was
major difference between productivity of adopted, women were recognised as the
female and male labour begins to
weaker section of society. After launching
develop when men become specialised of the C. D. programme, special projects
producers of some non-agricultural
have been undertaken from time to time
goods or services while females continue for the welfare of women and children.
to produce goods for family consumption Most of the rural projects do not have
only (Boserup, 1970). As long as the separate programmes for women and
RURAL WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
children. So it is difficult to separate the covered by the national extension service
sphere of activity. Nutrition programme is projects to provide basic welfare services
for the child as well as for the expectant for women and children in rural and back-
ward areas. As these were first started in
In 1952, the Community Development the series of welfare programmes, these
projects were launched in the rural area came to be known as Welfare Extension
for the economic and social uplift of Projects original pattern. Later in 1957, in
people. The programmes relied on participa-
order to ensure a co-ordinated approach in
tion of the rural community. In 1953, the the provision of welfare services, WEP
Centra! Social Welfare Board was
were opened in C D . block areas with a
established to promote activities for women co-ordination committee and were called
and children in both rural and urban WEP (CD.). In 1961-62, the activities were
areas. The main tasks the Board undertook handed over to the local organisations
were of starting welfare projects in rural called Mahila Mandals (common name
areas and giving grant-in-aid to welfare used for all voluntary organisations which
agencies which were mostly established in have taken over the activities). The border
urban areas then. The policies and the area projects were started to ensure
specific programmes in the last five plans assimilation of border people in the main-
have been changing their emphasis scope. land. In 1969, Family and Child Welfare
area of work, and budget outlay from plan Projects were started with help from
to plan. However, the programmes are UNICEF. From the Fifth Plan onwards the
generally aimed at providing pre-school scheme of Integrated Child Development
education, supplementary nutrition, and has been started. It is expected that if the
immunisation to the children, pre and post-
scheme proved successful, it will be extended
maternity services, supplementary nutrition all over India. The tables given below will
and health education to the young mothers. show the total number of projects started
The CSWB set up in 1953 a number of by the Board under various nomenclatures
Welfare Extension Projects in the areas not and their present position.
DEVELOPMENT OF RURAL PROGRAMMES UNDER CSWB
Central Social Welfare Board, 1953-1975)
The nature of the programmes will show
that in the last 20 years shift has been
TABLE SHOWING CURRENT ACTIVITIES OF CSWB
changing more and more to child welfare
services as a result of Women's Welfare
Services getting secondary position under
T A B L E 13
TABLE SHOWING THE DIFFERENCES IN VARIOUS PROJECTS
It will be thus observed that emphasis The Condensed Course for Adult Women
has been given to child welfare programmes.
It seems that there is no lobby of rural
The condensed courses for education of
workers wh6 have paid enough attention adult women were started by the Board
to these facts. Table 2 will show that the with the aim to educate adult women to
total number of villages covered are only acquire certain standards and levels of
8,872 as against nearly 6 lakhs of villages education. The programme envisaged the
in the country. We do not know whether establishment of a band of women workers
even 1% of the total female population required to provide female personnel
is covered by these programmes.
for development projects. Under the
RURAL WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
scheme, the C.S.W.B. gives financial considered as an instrument to help the
assistance to voluntary organisations for needy and the handicapped people - an
running courses through which deserving instrument to realise some social gains.
and needy women candidates in age Sheer profit making is not the objective,
group 18-30 years, who have left schooling When it is used in the context of helping
midway, are enabled to appear for middle the poor, it is not a charity. There is an
and secondary levels of examination. The element of industrial organisation, capital
scope is recently expanded to conduct organisation, pooling the resources in terms
vocational training programmes of one year of human skills, producing economically
duration. Currently, the Board runs 134 marketable goods and gaining profits. Added
programmes with 4021 women candidates. to these goals, social uplift of the needy
This was a good programme for rural sections of society would be an additional
women when middle school preparation goal if the industry comes under a socio-
was allowed. But currently the Board economic programme.
insists on running S.S.C. Examination
It is realised by many welfare agencies
courses. In the rural area, we have already working for women that there is a need
seen there are hardly any women who have for providing gainful employment to
left middle school education and can women. In 1954, the Central Social Wel-
appear for S.S.C. within two years duration. fare Board sponsored a scheme for orga-
The' average needy woman in the rural nising part-time employment for women in
area is far less educated and needs co-operation with the Ministry of Com-
encouragement to complete the vernacular merce and Industries. The first attempt of
examination first. Thus, this programme the Board was to start match-box factories
also is throwing rural women out who need at Delhi, Poona, Hyderabad and Vijaywada.
the programme most.
Somehow the schemes were not successful.
Though the official document of the Board
says, "The success of this scheme depended
on the effective co-ordination between the
One needs to understand the philosophy CSWB and the state governments, the
behind running socio-economic programmes. results achieved so far not so good because
We have already seen that many poor of the lack of co-operation from state
people in rural areas require financial sup-
governments" (Chari, 1966). Though the
port for their family. If women are pro-
Board has various types of schemes
vided work, their family income can go up. very few schemes are meant for rural
In socio-economic programmes, there is an women because the rural area does
effort to realise social gains through industry not have the necessary leadership of volun-
or economic productivity. Effort is made to tary and state agencies to start these pro-
enable the various groups mentioned above grammes. As a result, only the programme
to improve their economic condition by pro-
of dairies is likely to help rural women.
viding them an opportunity for gainful The scheme envisages that rural women
work. In running an industry, profit-making will look after one milch cattle and earn at
is considered as gain. If the industry does least Rs. 3 daily. The various schemes for
not make profits, the industry is eventually the Board are meant for urban and rural
closed. When industries are run as a part women. But one difficulty is that rural
of socio-economic programmes, they are women do not possess the necessary skills.
SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROGRAMMES OF THE C.S.W.B.
(Source : Report of the Working Group on the Programmes of the C. S. W. B.. 1977).
RURAL WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
It will be observed that Khadi and Village
Industries will provide better opportunities
TABLE SHOWING WOMEN'S PARTICIPATION IN KHADI
AND VILLAGE INDUSTRIES
to rural women.
III. Based on discussion above, certain
conclusions can be drawn regarding rural
women, their problems and lacuna in their
services. We may sum up as follows:
1. Female population faces risk at every
stage of life as the infant and maternal
mortality rates are very high in rural area.
2. Female population is illiterate and
does not possess much skills.
3. Most of the women work as landless
labourers. They do not possess specialised
skills which will bring them better wages.
4. Women play an important role in
agro-based industries (Sugar, tea, coffee).
As the wages of male workers go up,
females in rural area tend to remain at
home and do not participate in work.
5. With Green Revolution and increased
mechanisation, employment opportunities for
women are likely to be reduced.
6. The welfare services have not touched
women population at large.
The above factors involve some basic
( O z a . G . — K h a d i & Village Industries, 1975). discussion about women's role in National
Development. Economists have noted that
Opportunities under the Khadi and
development perpetuates inequality in the
Village Industries Commission.
sense that the gap between the rich and
Opportunities for self-employment for the poor increases. Does that mean that
women labourers are very few. Some of with development there will be more in-
them are created by the Khadi and Village equality for women? While one has to keep
Industries Commission in rural areas. this in mind, efforts will have to be made
Khadi and gramodyoga had been an integral to enable women to participate fully in
part of our freedom movement. Khadi economic and social development of the
Board's programme aims at giving gainful country.
employment to village citizens who are
To do this, some institutional changes
not employed throughout the year. The would be necessary. While some of the
available data from Khadi and Village changes are immediate, some would take
Industries Commission are inadequate. They many years. Some of the changes visualised
do not give figures of absolute numbers would be as follows:
but indicate female participation percent-
1. Women and Family
: Woman's role as
ages. But it seems that women are the mother and home maker has been recog-
single largest group to receive benefits from nised in India. Her primary responsibility
is to do domestic work, bear and rear
children. Only if it is absolutely necessary,
Another important factor which is likely
out of economic need, women work in to change women's position is woman's
rural areas. Society at large does not think right to voluntary motherhood. "Caught in
that women too are the citizens of India the vicious circle of reproduction, tyrannies
and they too have responsibility in India's on earth have perpetuated observed
development. Socialist thinkers have given Margaret Sanger. Right to voluntary
considerable thought to women's place in motherhood is woman's fundamental right.
the family. They feel that the institution of Birth control is the means by which woman
family is responsible for the exploitation attains basic freedom." So it is the means
of women. Marx argued that "first division by which she must and will uproot the
of labour was between man and woman evil she has wrought through her sub-
for propagation of children. The first class mission, as she has unconsciously and igno-
struggle in history coincides with the anta-
rantly brought about the social disaster.
gonism between man and woman in mono-
One of the basic difficulties with birth con-
gamous marriages and the first class opp-
trol in India is the fact that most of the
ression coincides with that of the female women are illiterate. They do not play an
by the male. The modern family contains important part in decision making in
in germs not only slavery (servitus) but Indian families. Contraceptive technology is
also serfdom. Since right from the begin absolutely necessary for rural families and it
ning it is related to the agricultural services. should be given due place equivalent to
It contains in miniature all the contradic-
modern technology which brings in the
tions which later extended throughout green revolution.
society and the state. Together with slavery
Dowry is an important aspect of marriage
and private property the modern family in India. When women play an important
has flourished by exploitation of women in part as wage earners, the dowry system
family and society" (Marx, 1948). Engels does not have the same connotation. In
visualises that, "In a socialist society, poorer sections of society where wife is
women also will be working and will be earning, dowry does not exist.
economically independent." What Marx and
2. Women and Political Parties
Engels observed of the 19th Century labour institutional change is necessary in the
class family of Europe is true of the Indian working of political parties. Today the
rural family today. It is very difficult to government has to play an important role
totally change the family. But some of the in deciding the policies of rural develop-
functions of the family can be reduced. ment. If we observe the policies of poli-
Marx said, "With transfer of the means of tical parties and the types of people who
production into the common ownership, the are our politicians, we can say that most of
single family also will change. .. . Private the political parties are not committed to
house keeping changes into a social rural welfare in general and women's wel-
fare in particular. Only a party which has
While it is difficult to predict whether cadres at rural level, workers who are hard
the ownership of private property will be task masters will alone be able to change
changed in India, it is possible to consider our rural scenes. Leaving development
child care as a community and state res-
work to government agencies alone is
ponsibility. There is absolute necessity to likely to repeat the same failure lessons.
provide creches to enable rural women to
3. Autonomous Rural Development
go to work without much worry.
The third institutional change is
RURAL WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
necessary at the government level. Today welfare" (Sharma, 1978). The integrated
rural development work is left to enor-
development programme has to achieve
mous government agencies. It is expected enhanced rural production and producti-
that voluntary agencies also play an im-
vity and greater socio-economic equality. It
portant role. There is need to have an also involves broad based community parti-
autonomous Rural Development Agency cipation. We have so far seen that women
which will also look after women's prob-
also need to play an important role in
lems. One of the long-term tasks of that economic development of rural areas. The
agency should be to create a new cadre of programme developed at the international
voluntary leadership amongst women in the level suggests that the women's roles in
the rural sector are determined by (a) Types
of agricultural activity, such as (i) subsi-
Most developing countries have un-
stance farming with high female labour
dertaken multiple programmes for rural participation and complementary with men,
development. Recently the scheme of (ii) labour intensive cash crops where
Integrated Rural Development has been women have to work harder but have little
initiated on experimental basis in neglected control over earnings, iii) mechanised cash
areas of each state. Integrated rural deve-
cropping, where men operate the equip-
lopment means a strategy to improve the ment and take charge of cash income while
economic and social life of the rural poor women occupy increasingly subordinate posi-
and the rural work in the overall spectrum tion; (b) Availability and ownership of !and;
of development and growth. The emphasis (c) Changing social relations resulting from
is also on the factor of equitable distri-
different kinds of innovations such as
burton because the fruits of development land reform, resettlement schemes, new
should also reach the rural poor. Develop-
agricultural technologies, wider markets
ment for what? The ultimate purpose of through improved communications, impinge
all development activities is to provide in-
on women's role positively or negatively".
creasing opportunities to all people for a The assumption that any development will
better life, bring about a more equitable benefit both men and women has often
distribution of income and wealth, achieve resulted in women being pushed out of the
a greater degree of economic security, type of work in which they used to be
expand and improve facilities for educa-
heavily involved and has denied them the
tion, health, nutrition, housing and social access to modern education.
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Role of Rural Women in Development,
Bombay: Allied Publi-
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— A hand book.
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