Will you #BeBoldForChange?

To commemorate International Women's Day 2017, LANSA organised a seminar-discussion at MSSRF, Chennai, on what action would bring desired policy change for women involved in agriculture in India on March 10. LANSA launched its first short animation film - 'South Asia: Women in Agriculture - the Nutrition Connection' to set the tone for meaningful discussion. 

Findings from FAO data shows that half the world’s farmers are women, and in South Asia women are involved in almost all stages of the agricultural process. Agriculture is the main livelihood for a majority of rural families in India, and does have a huge potential to reduce undernutrition. This is yet to be realised though.

We have come to recognise the steady feminisation of the agricultural labour force that has created a major role for women in the agriculture process. This has made women’s time a crucial factor. Women as farmers play a great role in development of India and as mothers in their families. Thus, better awareness among the women farmers in a country will lead to better nutrition for all.

This was reiterated by the concluding remarks made by Professor M S Swaminathan. He observed, “The increased self-esteem of women due to institutional interventions has led to women empowerment in many parts of the country. However, the fact remains that India has the highest number of malnourished children. Therefore, the time has come that we start learning from any intervention that has helped improving a social problem.” He referred to Kerala in his remark stating that it had done exceedingly well in reducing the infant and child mortality.

A special address was made by V Amuthvalli, IAS who is Director of Social Welfare, Government of Tamil Nadu. She started with a quote by Malala Yousafzai and presented an overall picture of women empowerment in India, and rightly stated that "Women will be empowered only when she is aware of her rights.” She also mentioned the importance of backyard nutrition garden for better family nutrition. The financial independence of women and access to right information is required in many villages, she concluded. 

Media was also present.

Panel experts discuss positive action for change

The panel discussion that followed was moderated by Prakash Shetty, CEO of LANSA. Panelists included R Rukmani and S Velvizhi from MSSRF, Farhat Saiyed - Nutrition Specialist from UNICEF-India (Kerala and Tamil Nadu), and Nitya Rao, LANSA's gender crosscut lead.   

Farhat Saiyed shared her experience working with UNICEF in Bihar, and said, “50 percent of women who were elected as sarpanch were not aware of their rights; their husbands and brothers took charge while the women acted only as proxy-leaders.” She added that media has a major role in creating awareness among these women, and emphasised the importance of the first 1000 days for effective child nutrition. Farhat based her observations from her work with UNICEF on child nutrition in the interior villages of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Nitya Rao presented on gender and nutrition studies under LANSA, specifically in India from ongoing work under the FSN study in Koraput and Wardha districts. She highlighted the limitations of the Draft National Policy for Women 2016 and National Policy for Farmers. Find her presentation here.

R Rukmani, Director of Food Security, MSSRF, introduced Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana - a programme for empowerment of women farmers in Vidharba district of Maharashtra. The initiative was started in 2007 as a response to the agrarian crisis and large number of suicides by farmers in Vidarbha resulting in large number of women being empowered and actively engaged in agriculture.

S Velvizhi, coordinator for Fish for All Training Centre of MSSRF, spoke about the empowerment of fisherwomen in Tamil Nadu. She brought attention that although fishing has 4.5 percent share in the agriculture GDP of the country, there were several issues that fisherwomen face.  Their incomes are low, there is a lack of women friendly technologies, there is division of labor and wage discrimination, a lack of training opportunities, low literacy rate, and restrictions from the family when women want to work. The situation worsened after the Tsunami in 2004 with many lives lost, and also livelihood. However, after the Fish for All Training Centre was set up by MSSRF in 2009, fisherwomen are now empowered. 

Date: 

Monday, March 13, 2017

South Asia Focus

Funded by UK DFID

This research has been funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development; however the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK Government’s official policies

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