Women have been given a marginal role in Rural Development. Discuss. Essay

Women have been given a marginal role in Rural Development. Discuss


In the Zimbabwean society, women have a multi dimensional role. They have a major role to play in the development process also. For the last few years, programmes for women have been receiving particular attention under community and rural development programmes. The desirable socio-economic development can be achieved only when women in large are stimulated and motivated to accept and adopt new techniques. The largest numbers of women in Zimbabwe are engaged in farming operations either as cultivators or as supervisors or as agricultural laborers (Dzvimbo et al., 2018). They are the main participants and decision makers in various agricultural operations like seed sowing, transplanting, weeding, harvesting, threshing, application of manure, storage of seeds and food grains and post harvest home level processing. Apart from all these they also involve in bringing fodder from field, chaff cutting, feeding and cleaning of cattle, maintaining cattle shed, compost making etc. In view of all these things, woman is recognized as a partner of man in agriculture and she is included in the effort of bringing new technology to the farmers because of her intimate involvement in agriculture as a manager, decision maker and labourer. The status of rural women is improving day by day (Mehretu et al., 2017).

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives.” For many rural women across the world, there is not always the chance to become involved in the conversation about the array of issues that affect them, ranging from economic security, women’s health, and political representation. A large proportion of these women never receive proper education or even leave the villages that they live in.

Though rural women make up a quarter of the world’s population, they are left behind in every measure of development. In order to help empower women in all settings, and to reduce poverty and gender inequality, women must stand up for each other. Empowered women must fight to give their sisters a voice to end suffering in rural areas. To fully fight gender inequality, we must rise up for women that do not have access to basic needs (Mehretu et al. 2017).

In rural India, nearly 60% of women are employed in the agriculture sector. Farming is often perceived as male-dominated, but the actual truth is quite different in India. Many of these women do not own land rights to the land that they are tending to, leaving them with little access to credit and no pathway to government funded schemes. Only 9.3% of women who farm actually own the land, according to the Indian National Sample Survey Agricultural Census (Sachs, 2018).

Moreover, more men and youth are departing India’s farms to migrate towards urban areas, leaving many of the women behind to tend to crops, but these women still lack the rights that come along with land ownership (Mehretu et al., 2017). Fortunately, there has been an upsurge in cooperatives and self-help groups that work with female farmers. The groups are bringing these women together to inspire change, build finances, and educate and train one another. These groups are often focused on sustainable farming, and promoting environment-friendly efforts will help ensure that various sustainable development goals are met, including most notably Goal 5 for Gender Equality and Goal 13 for Climate Action (Nelson, 2015).

Addaney et al (2016) posit that lack of sufficient capital tends to affect small and medium scale enterprises’ (SMEs’) ability to develop new products and services or to grow so as to meet demand. Sachs (2018) points out that 90% of business start-ups that failed did so because of the lack of management skills of the owners. Similarly, the lack of financial resources, shortfall in marketing and management expertise, weaknesses in external information and linkages are factors that limit their competitiveness (Adanney et al., 2016). These problems have been affecting all those operating within Ghana’s informal sector with women being most affected. For instance, although women in agriculture in Ghana control 40% of all land (Sachs, 2018) and produce nearly all the food their families consume (since men are mostly engaged in cash crop farming), for the most part, women still do not have access to land, credit, technology, fertilizer, education, employment, and political power as evidenced in the literature (Sachs, 2018). Often, they also have more limited access to family labor and lack the resources to hire labor for their farming and other economic activities. In addition, their time constraints make it difficult for them to benefit from skills training, health programs, and other development activities. Women’s inability to have access to resources equal to that of men is based upon certain prevalent social structures (Sachs, 2018). For example, traditionally, a woman’s debt was held to be the collective responsibility of the family or the husband and therefore a family or husband could prevent a woman from acquiring a loan from the bank or the moneylender (Adanney et al., 2016). Addaney et al (2016) endorse Arhin’s finding, as he demonstrates how Ghanaian women engaged in enterprise development could not expand their businesses because they were not able to obtain financial assistance from the banks. In spite of their situation, women have played significant roles in the socio-economic growth and well-being of their societies. In fact, they can be described as agents of development because they have played tremendous roles both in the formal and informal sectors of the economy through creativity and innovations.




Women contribute about 3/4th of the labour required for agricultural operations. Their involvement in agricultural operations is besides their usual domestic work. Most of the contributions made by women to the farm sector also goes unaccounted as they are not directly paid. The contribution of female labour is towards agricultural production is always more than the male labour in all types of landholding size. The jobs traditionally done by farm women in the order of importance are mainly the kitchen gardening, harvesting, seedling raising and transplanting. Although women play an indispensable role in farming and in improving the quality of life in rural areas, their contributions often remain concealed due to some social barriers and gender bias (Dzvimbo et al., 2018).

Even Government programmes often fail on women in agriculture. This undermines the potential benefits from programme, especially those related to food production, household income improvements, nutrition, literacy, poverty alleviation improve their performance and liberate them from their marginalized status in the society. Indian rural women share substantial responsibilities and perform a wide spectrum of duties in most of the family related activates, farming related activities as well, besides their exclusive involvement in domestic chores. The participation of women greatly helps to supplement the family income but the dual role they play as income generator as well as homemaker does have some negative impact on the family too. Women make essential contributions to the agricultural and rural economies in all developing countries (Sachs, 2018).

Their roles vary considerably between and within regions and are changing rapidly in many parts of the world, where economic and social forces are transforming the agricultural sector. Rural women often manage complex households and pursue multiple livelihood strategies. Their activities typically include producing agricultural crops, tending animals, processing and preparing food, working for wages in agricultural or other rural enterprises, collecting fuel and water, engaging in trade and marketing, caring for family members and maintaining their homes. Many of these activities are not defined as “economically active employment” in national accounts but they are essential to the well-being of rural household The picture of rural women is that of a submissive, illiterate, ignorant, assestless female, who has been trapped in web of traditions and customs. In today’s society, the role of women extends way the home and the bringing-up of children.

Women have to perform the dual role of housewife and wage earner. Both roles made heavy demands on a woman’s time and energy. Women from rural areas are engaged in farm operations as cultivators and agricultural laborers. Women are actively involved in pre-sowing, harvesting and post–harvesting operations as well as allied activities. Women belonging to low socio-economic strata are actively engaged in agricultural labor. They also show their involvement in planning decision –making and supervisory activities.

Women’s participation in home and farm activities is dependent upon social, cultural and economic conditions in the area. It also varies from region to region and even within a region, their involvement varies widely among different farming system, castes, classes and socio-economic status. The participation of women greatly helps to supplement the family income but the dual role they play as income generator as well as homemaker does have some negative impact on the family too (Sachs, 2018).


Rural Development

Rural development in general is used to denote the actions and initiatives taken to improve the standard of living in non-urban neighbourhoods, countryside, and remote villages. These communities can be exemplified with a low ratio of inhabitants to open space. Agricultural activities may be prominent in this case whereas economic activities would relate to the primary sector, production of foodstuffs and raw materials. Rural development is mostly aimed at the social and economic development of the areas in which they work. These programs are usually Top-down from the local or regional authorities, regional development agencies, NGO’s, national governments or international development organizations. But, local populations can also bring about endogenous initiatives for development (Nelson, 2015.


Women and development

The subject of “women and Development” has invited a good deal of attention, especially in the case of rural women, in recent years and rightly so. The overwhelming majority of women workers in rural areas are affected by problems of poverty, unemployment and underemployment. To support economic development and to increase the status of women, it is essential that women, who already have responsibility in issues of production, education, health, family relationships, and nutrition among others, participate in development (Sachs, 2018). The following summary of relevant literature is an attempt to synthesize research findings from a wide range of sources.


Women’s participation and rural development

Women’s labour force participation is a fascinating issue for both theoretical and policy reasons. Rural economies, particularly those dependent on agriculture, have been affected by the processes of globalisation, leading to the restructuring and decline of the agricultural sector, the growth of the service sector and increased emphasis on technology. In many areas, this has created unprecedented work and employment opportunities, as well as bringing changes in the role and status of women.

Rural women share abundant responsibilities and perform a wide spectrum of duties in running the family, maintaining the household, attending to farm operations, tending domestic animals and engaging in rural artisan work and handicrafts (Addanney et al., 2016). But female labour engaged in such activities is usually not measured in economic terms. An implicit assumption is made that the woman is basically a mother and housewife, any productive work she carries out is considered socially secondary, and thus it has tended to remain unnoticed, more so in the case of rural women Agricultural work, too, is ubiquitous and multifaceted. Poorer women may hire out as agricultural day labourers (Sachs, 2018). There is another kind of agricultural labour performed by women is as partners in their family farms, where women are entrusted primarily with the tasks of managing and caring for livestock, raising poultry, assisting in the harvest, and processing plant and animal products for consumption, home utilization or sale. Marketing of the products may be done by either sex. In general, women market poultry and dairy products and small quantities of grain, men market livestock, large quantities of grain and export crops; fruit and vegetable production may be marketed by either sex. These kind of agricultural labour and marketing services are not recorded in formal government statistics, yet they make a significant contribution to family income (Sachs, 2018). However it should be mention that women’s participation in production, the nature of their work and the division of labour between the sexes can then be viewed as a result of women’s reproductive functions, and conditioned by the nature of the productive process and by the requirements of a given pattern of growth and accumulation. (Addanney et al., 2016).

Agriculture is an enterprise that often engages resources from all family members. These resources include land, labour, and capital. Agriculture is unique in the way it combines the factors of production and, thus, unique in the kind of commitment demanded from family members when they are the source of these factors. The role of women in agriculture –just as the role of men in agriculture –can best be understood through an analysis of the relationship or use right; to labour through provision of labour at key times and for key elements in the production cycle; and to capital, in terms of both the mobilization of inputs and the allocation of the surplus produced (Sachs, 2018). There is widespread agreement that even though wider processes of agricultural and rural restructuring in the West have led to changes in gender relations, farmwomen are still marginalised from agricultural production (Sachs, 2018). Since then, a growing body of work has analysed the ways in which patriarchal ideologies shape unequal gender relations and identities in farming families in different countries (Addaney et al., 2016).

In Ghana, women’s contributions to the socio-economic and political development as well as well-being of the country cannot be over-emphasized. However, their contribution to the socio-economic well-being of their families and communities through their entrepreneurial activities has received little attention from policy makers and researchers, and has been taken for granted by the Ghanaian society. This has resulted in gross underestimation and under-utilization of women’s socio-economic contribution and potential in the Ghanaian economy (Addaney et al., 2016). Expenditure studies in various parts of Ghana have shown that women consistently spend more of their incomes directly on children and other household supplies, while men tend to concentrate more on capital investment and their own personal needs (Nelson, 2015). Despite the brilliant feats of women, some individuals and groups including women’s groups, governments, development partners, and civil society organizations, have put up arguments “that the biology of sex determines that women are limited to the home and children and must play a subordinate role in the economy, public affairs and even in the home” (Nelson, 2015). The notion behind this statement is that a woman’s place belongs to the kitchen, from where she has to cater for the stomachs of her family by preparing food and also carrying pregnancy to term and bringing forth children, socializing them and making sure they fit into society. In view of this ideology, women are forced to occupy a limited if not subordinate position in society (Nelson, 2015). But fully aware of the qualities that they possess, women have made frantic efforts to end the marginalization they have been suffering at the hands of men. Duflo (2012) points out that African women, holding to their own in different sectors of the body politic, continue to initiate and/or participate in various resistances, overt and covert, that threaten ruling governments. Through friendship connections, cliques, and kinship relations women get together to support one another in various fields of endeavor (Mehretu et al., 2017).

In spite of these protests and resistances from women, their status has not changed. Gender inequalities continue to constrain women’s ability to participate in and contribute meaningfully to the economy. Girls are not protected from excessive housework and they are not treated equally with boys in sharing of household reponsibilities; the banking system is not structured to ensure that women benefit equally with men from mainstream loans and other financial and business assistance; the economic rights of women are not promoted by providing them with opportunities such as access to the banking sector, land, technology, and markets to improve their livelihoods; the majority of the poor and the illiterate in both urban and rural areas are women; and women face bleak prospects in the labor market owing to employers’ prejudices about young women’s childbearing and domestic obligations in the first few years after they enter formal employment (Mehretu et al., 2017). All these gender inequalities harm societies’ well-being. But what does the most harm is the fact that women are comparatively less well-educated than men. Lack of access to formal education and training is the key factor that inhibits the contribution of women to socio-economic development (Nelson, 2015).

Despite their plight, women still continue to contribute towards the socio-economic growth and well-being of society in all fields of endeavor. They are able to do this because they adapt easily to change and are very creative. As agents of development in all societies, women play tremendous roles through creativity and innovations both in the formal and informal sector. They predominate particularly in the informal small to medium scale agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors of the economy. However, they are mostly engaged in activities that are in the informal low-growth, low-return areas (Sachs, 2018).



Sachs, C.E., 2018. Gendered fields: Rural women, agriculture, and environment. Routledge.

Addaney, M., Akudugu, J.A. and Asare, E.S., 2016. Prospects and Challenges of Rural Small Scale Industries in the Sunyani Municipality of Ghana. Asian Development Policy Review4(4), pp.111-126.

Nelson, N., 2015. Why has development neglected rural women?: A review of the South Asian literature (Vol. 1). Elsevier.

Mehretu, A., Mutambirwa, C. and Mutambirwa, J., 2017. 21 The plight of women in the margins of rural life in Africa: The case of Zimbabwe. Revival: Globalization and Marginality in Geographical Space (2001): Political, Economic and Social Issues of Development at the Dawn of New Millennium, p.279.

Dzvimbo, M.A., Monga, M. and Mashizha, T.M., 2018. Revisiting Women Empowerment: A Review Of Policies On Landuse And Food Security In Zimbabwe. Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal5(4).

Duflo, E., 2012. Women empowerment and economic development. Journal of Economic Literature50(4), pp.1051-79.

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