TANDO MUHAMMAD KHAN           -        Women are the backbone of subsistence farming and play a vital role in providing food security in interior Sindh. A majority of them work within a system of sharecropping and toil from dawn to dusk on farms for sustenance of their families.

However, women sharecroppers are not paid for their labour. They are simply considered helping hands for their men/family. Although deeply connected to rural economy, they largely remain ignored for a number of reasons.

Also, rural women provide most of the labour for post-harvest activities, taking responsibility for storage, handling, stocking, processing and marketing. However, rural women have more or less the same kind of activities in daily life elsewhere in the third world. According to survey, Chanda, Bharti and Nisha few of the women farmers working in the field at village Hussain Khan Leghari, shared their views as they performs duties such as house cleaning in the morning, dish washing, fetching drinking water and laundry, preparing food for family, care of children, tailoring and also mending clothes.

Some jobs she starts early in the morning up to noon and we manage our activities at different times during the day as a routine practice, they said. Rural women in particular are responsible for half of the world’s food production. Yet, despite their contribution to global food security, women farmers are frequently overlooked in development strategies.  Rural women help produce the world’s staple crops rice, wheat, maize. Their contribution to secondary crop production, such as legumes and vegetables is even greater.

In most of the developing countries, both men and women farmers do not have access to adequate resources, but women’s access is even more constrained as a result of cultural, traditional and sociological factors. Accurate information about men’s and women’s relative access to, and control over, resources is crucial in the development of food security strategies.

Socio-economic conditions:  The selected socio-economic characteristics of the rural household shows that the average family size is 9.87 and it is composed of two males, two females, five children and two aged persons.

Almost half 48 per cent of a family is of non-working age. There are wide gap between males and females in educational level.

“Women’s contribution to agriculture, livestock and food security is often unaccounted for. One of the main reasons is the established social mores which define women farmer’s role as household helpers only.

Thus, our labour is not considered an economic activity,” Bharti and Nisha told this correspondent. 

Women make up 43 per cent of agricultural workforce, but they own less than two per cent of land. If they have equal access to agricultural resources, poverty among them and their families can be reduced noticeably. Lately some NGOs working with farming communities have noted that per acre yield can be increased considerably if women have a say in agricultural matters.

“The tragedy is that there are no accurate figures about rural women’s contribution to the economic growth and gross domestic product (GDP) which is quite significant,” Noor Muhammad, a research fellow at Far East and Southeast Asia Study Centre, University of Sindh, Jamshoro stated that the government should make sure that women farmers and their contribution is fully reflected in future statistics to ensure their access to benefits meant for farmers.

In absence of gender-sensitive data — necessary for gender equality — women’s contribution to agriculture is not recorded.

Rurall women world over are an integral and vital force in the development processes, which are the key to socio-economic progress. Rural women include farmers, wage workers, petty traders, artisans, industrial home workers, micro-producers and domestic servants.

They form the backbone of the agricultural labour force across much of the developing world and produce 35 per cent to 45 per cent of GDP and well over 50 per cent of the developing world’s food. Yet, over half a billion rural women are poor and lack access to resources and markets. In fact, the number is estimated to have increased by 50 per cent over the past 20 years and today they outnumber poor men,” says UN’s Geneva Declaration for Rural Women. Women’s engagement in agriculture and livestock has also limited their opportunities to educate themselves as compared to men.

“A major chunk of household budget is spent on men instead of women despite their greater contribution. Boys are given preference over girls when it comes to education and health. If rural women’s work is recognised and recorded it would help develop agriculture faster, and it would be the biggest single factor in reducing poverty,” says Noor Muhammad.

“They work as entrepreneurs, as farm and non-farm labourers, in family businesses, for others and as self-employed, while they take on a disproportionate share of unpaid work at home. However, their contribution is limited by unequal access to resources as well as persistent discrimination and gender norms which need to be addressed to allow the realisation of their full potential,” says International Labour Organisation.

All works done by rural women — agriculture, livestock and traditional crafts making — should be recorded to ensure their access to resources, to open bank accounts and to borrow money and buy agriculture inputs like fertilisers and seeds. The government should offer agricultural subsidies to women farmers. .

“Their special needs like pregnancies and births are attended to by village midwives. If they own land and have savings they can use the money for their needs,” says Noor Muhammad.

“Gender analysis of men’s and women’s paid and unpaid economic activity, including through periodic time-use surveys, should be carried out to achieve better harmonisation of data base and workload. The value of unpaid work should be fully reflected in official accounts,” he told.

There is a need for revising the agricultural policy to identify women’s role in rural economy. It should be gender-sensitive and highlight and determine women farmer’s policy needs with facts and figures. This will help improve the quality of their lives and their health and environment.

Women farmer’s right to resources and decision-making will help make them self-reliant and less dependent on men.

The underlying issue, that is the real cause of problem, is absence of women farmers at policy level and attention should be paid to their participation. The revised gender-based agriculture policy should deal with both the long- and short-term issues affecting women sharecroppers.

Meanwhile, Piles of garbage, dumped in open drains and along the river beds, and being openly burnt on roadsides, in streets and in parks, have become a common sight in Tando Muhammad Khan, which clearly indicates negligence of district government and TMA, Tando Muhammad Khan responsible for collecting, managing and disposing of solid waste.

The situation is most serious in densely populated towns like Naseerabad Mohallah, Memon Mohallah, Shoukat Colony, Khokhar Mohallah, Mir Mohallah, Pir Mohallah, National bank road, where garbage accumulation in the absence of effective disposal systems has become a health hazard.

Most of these towns lack proper facilities for collection and lifting of garbage, resulting in insanitation. The municipal officials of these towns have always complained of shortage of funds, transportation and sanitary staff as some of the reasons for the system’s failure.

It is observed that most of the efforts by these agencies are focused on short-term initiatives.

Efforts had recently been made by the Deputy Commissioner, T.M.Khan to improve and introduce a mechanized sweeping system and also launch anti-encroachment campaign, but this could not produce the desired results. It is not known what happened of these initiatives.

One of the problems is that a lot of designated sites where garbage is dumped and disposed of have disappeared as the land mafia has built apartments and buildings on them.

A survey of Nasirabad, National Bank Road, Shoukat colony, Mushtarika colony shows that there is no trace of many such sites for the aforesaid reason.

Finding no place for proper dumping of garbage, the domestic, commercial and even hospital waste is dumped at the nearest street corner. Eventually, heaps of garbage have emerged at every street corner, aggravating the situation further.

Ironically, the sanitation staff does not collect garbage from these undesignated disposal spots, which have turned into a permanent nuisance for common citizens. The district government as well as the taluka municipal administration have so far miserably failed to come up to the rescue of people, living in subhuman conditions in many parts of the city.

People of these areas have complained of the municipal authorities’ inefficiency and their indifferent attitude towards the intolerable unhygienic conditions.

They say that poor management, negligence and lethargy on the part of the sanitation staff has not only destroyed the environment and living conditions but has also contributed greatly to the spread of infectious diseases.

People mostly allege that sanitary workers do not perform their duties and often remain absent. They say it is because many of them are engaged in private house jobs refuting the official claim that 60 per cent of garbage is being lifted regularly.

One community worker remarked that “they (sanitary workers) simply collect the garbage from one locality and get rid of it by disposing it of in another locality”.