As Sikhs our ancestry and culture is embedded in agriculture and rural life. Today we celebrate International day of Rural Women and the value rural women add to our global society.
In rural Punjab women take on a multitude of roles. From harvesting land, looking after cattle, taking care of family as well as household duties, her responsibilities are never ending. From the day she was born it’s likely the daughters of rural Punjab have to prove themselves to be hard working, honourable and responsible even before the expectations of being an ideal wife and ideal mother.
Despite employers in Punjab appreciating the high output, discipline and honesty of it’s female workforce, there is a huge discrimination against women who are not paid equally to men and neither do they have a permanent employment status. Despite working as hard as their male counterparts expectations at home do not change for working women in regards to ‘woman’s work’ including, washing, cooking, cleaning, raising children.
Powerless is a word some use to describe rural women. It’s still rare for girls to be encouraged to take up higher education and economic freedom in the rural villages in Punjab. It’s harder still for women to work afar from home with transport costs and also lack of child care facilities.
It is the norm for women who make money to supplement their husbands income. She’ll work 12 hours a day yet her husband decides how to spend the income and that can often be squandered on alcohol and gambling, without any control from her.
Rural women around the world have many issues that haunt them including hunger, poverty, unemployment, climate change, drug addiction and suicide. 1 in 3 women work in agriculture globally and 40% of the global population, around 3 billion people, live in the rural areas of developing countries. The majority of these people depend on a small farm to earn a living and the outcome of their work in never guaranteed, especially with the issues facing our climate today.
Changes are beginning to happen. Successful female farmers are not uncommon and investments in rural women to support new, innovative farming techiques are advancing. More doors and opportunities are opening to all farmers to deliver sustainable farming methods to eliminate hunger and poverty.
The women of Punjab are a backbone to agricultural and family life. If women were given the same opportunities as men in rural India alone, farming output would feed over 100 million more people! (according to the FAO, Food and Agricultural Organisation.)
Sikh women in rural Punjab rarely expect acknowledgement of their selflessness to their families and society, yet today, International Day of Rural Women, is a day when we should stop and reflect on their sacrifices.