Rural women: intrinsic contributors

Women are major contributors in agriculture and its allied fields. Their work ranges from crop production, livestock production to cottage industry, household and family maintenance activities to transporting water, fuel and fodder. Despite such a huge involvement, their role and dignity has yet no been recognized. Women’s status is low by all social, economic, and political indicators

By Shabir Mohsin Hashmi and Dr.Khalida Jamali

Rural-women-1 (May 11, 2009) Rural-women-2 (May 11, 2009)






Pakistan is one of the most fortunate countries which inherit very efficient and hardworking rural women labour force. Though the participation of women witnessed in every sector of the economy now, however, it is still heavily concentrated to agriculture sector. Pakistani rural women have been intensively involved in agriculture and its allied fields. She performs numerous labour intensive jobs such as weeding, hoeing, grass cutting, picking, cotton stick collections, separation of seeds from fibre. Women are also expected to collect wood from fields. This wood is being used as a major fuel source for cooking. 

Clean drinking water is another major problem in rural Pakistan. Like collection of wood, fetching water from remote areas is also the duty of women. Because a rural woman is responsible for farm activities, keeping of livestock and its other associated activities like milking, milk processing, and preparation of ghee are also carried out by the women.

Livestock is the primary subsistent activity used to meet household food needs as well as supplement farm incomes. The majority of farms own some livestock. The pattern of livestock strength is mainly influenced by various factors such as farm size, cropping pattern, availability of range-lands including fodder and pasture. It is common practice in the rural areas of Pakistan to give an animal as part of a women’s dowry.  The number of small ruminants (sheep and goat) is 3 per farm. Studies have revealed rural women earn extra income an average of the amount of Rs.8780/- per annum from the sale of animals. Mostly women are engaged in cleaning of animal, sheds, watering and milking the animals. Further more, rural women are also responsible for collection, preparing dung cakes an activity that also bring additional income to poor families .Evidently, rural women are involved in almost all livestock related activities. Except grazing, all other livestock management activities are predominantly performed by females.

Labour Survey of Pakistan  2006-07 disclosed that  stall feeding of animals is carried out by 31 per cent of females, whereas, milking, milk processing carried out by 58 per cent and preparing dung cakes are carried out by 90 per cent of females. 90 per cent women are involved in shed cleaning and 85 per cent in collection of farm yard manure. Watering is also performed by the 69 per cent of females.  Males, however, share the responsibility of taking care of sick animals. It is evident that women are playing a dominant role in the livestock production and management activities.

Poultry farming is one of the major sources of rural economy. The rate of women in poultry farming at household level is the central in poultry industry. Even though rural women are not using modern management techniques, such as vaccination and improved feed, but their poultry enterprise is impressive. Every year, income from poultry farming has been rising. In order to generate more and more income, rural women often sell all eggs produced and poultry meat, leaving nothing for personal use. Due to poverty and lack of required level of proteins, most of women are in very poor health. Most of women suffer from malnutrition.

Rural women play a significant role in farming. Traditionally, cotton picking is exclusively female activity. According to labour survey, 89 per cent women are engaged in it. They are also extensively involved in other activities such as 30 per cent in hoeing and 22 per cent in weeding. Aside from these activities, women have very little involvement in other aspect of cotton production, while the males play major role in seed preparation (85 per cent) cotton ridge making (87 per cent), sowing of cotton on ridges (54 per cent), hoeing (17 per cent), thinning of cotton plants( 44 per cent), preparation of pesticide application (98 per cent), fertilizer application (99 per cent), cotton stick cutting (77 per cent), stick collection (62 per cent), cotton field cleaning (55 per cent) and cotton seed preparation seed (87 per cent). Male seek consultation from female while selecting cotton pickers, time to start first Picking, total number of pickings and selecting the storage place for cotton.  About 28-42 per cent  of females are also being consulted for the variety of crop, plant distance/population, timely sowing, source of seed, ensuring quality-seed collection from own crop, applying seed rate as per cotton variety and selling of cotton at certain price. 14 per cent female have not only been consulted to assess pest attack but have also been consulted to select pesticides and the time for pesticide applications. Only 21 per cent of females have been consulted to use alternative methods of plant protection. 22-27 per cent has some voice in decisions regarding area allocation to cotton crop, selection of land lord to work with as tenant, purchase of inputs, irrigating field from tube well and selling of production to a specific agency.

Traditionally, rural women’s day starts from dawn and ends at dusk. The daily routine work begins from house cleaning, fetching drinking water, dish washing, laundry, preparing food for family, care of children, tailoring and sewing clothes. She manages these activities very smartly. Even though rural women supply half of the Pakistan’s food production, yet her own food security is always at risk. Women farmers are frequently ignored in development strategies and policies.

Women are major contributors in agriculture and its allied fields. Their work ranges from crop production, livestock production to cottage industry, household and family maintenance activities to transporting water, fuel and fodder. Despite such a huge involvement, their role and dignity has yet not been recognized. Women’s status is low by all social, economic, and political indicators.

For the betterment of women folk and in recognition of her contribution in agriculture and its allied field, following recommendations have been made.

(1) Women working in the rural economy and the informal sector are to be formally recognized and her labour work may be accounted in monetary terms.

(2) Steps are to be taken to ensure the access of poor rural women to land, agricultural and livestock extension services and support mechanisms and facilities. Furthermore, providing women easy access to micro-credit, especially through the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), Rural Support Programmes (RSPs), First Women Bank (FWB), Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) and the Khushali Bank.

(3) Women, particularly in general and female headed households, women bread earners, and women with disability, are given priority in accessing credit on soft terms from  banks and other financial institutions for setting up their business, for buying properties, and for house building.

(4) In most countries legislative changes have been made to facilitate women’s rights and women’s have direct access to agriculture credit. For instance, Thailand had made changes in legal term from house wife to women farmer to allow her access to agriculture credit. Similar legislative alterations are also need in Pakistan

(5) To enhance women’s literacy rates, and to improve the levels of female education ratio, other urgent measures required. A separate education policy for women may serve the purpose.

(6) Women are entirely absent from the state structures and decision-making bodies that have the potential to introduce structural changes. Women’s lack of involvement in government structures is critical to bring about substantive changes in the development policies and programs that would lead to a shift in gender relations in the society.

(7) Access to justice is another target area. Key policy measures to be instituted including eliminating negative customary practices by increasing knowledge of women’s existing rights to access judicial relief and redress, ensuring effective implementation and the enforcement of existing rights, removing discrimination through legal reforms, and providing legal aid, assistance and counselling. More specifically, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, the Pakistan Law Commission, and the National Commission on the Status of Women are to review all laws and formulate proposals for law reform.

Finally it is concluded that the rural women are exploited by land lords for their personal good and enrichment. Women are treated as sub- servant or personal property. In this regard government must formulate policies to enhance their skills and their work should be counted in economic indicators.


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