Women’s work and their contribution to the economy, especially in agriculture, are still invisible when it comes to data, according to Sabina Dewan, President and Executive Director, JustJobs Network.

Speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Impact of Climate Change on Agricultural Livelihoods of Women’, organised by Arthan and JustJobs Network on a virtual platform, Dewan said 60 per cent of women are employed in agriculture. However, the full scale of work is often not captured in the national statistics.

Neeraja Kudrimoti, State Programme Officer, Aspirational Districts Programme (collaboration with Chhattisgarh government), said livelihood, climate, and agriculture are closely linked to each other.

Kudrimoti said that 76 per cent of people get their nutrients from plants, and 80 per cent of food is produced by women. Still women are not seen as cultivators. Women play different roles, and they are viewed by the larger society as community management and reproductive assets. This exacerbates their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

Explaining this, Kudrimoti said in case of crop failure, fuel shortage, the whole burden falls on the women of the households to fetch fodder, fuelwood, etc. Lack of technology makes their work more difficult.

Zulfiquar Haider, Chief Strategy and Programme Officer (Azim Premji Foundation), said 65-70 per cent of the work is done by women. There is a significant issue at the policy level and there is a need to enable a policy that improves the situation.

“We will have to find a mechanism to move the population from agriculture to other professions and entrepreneurship in the local ecosystem and this is something we are overlooking in the present times. We need a lot of people who understand hydrology, biodiversity. There are several ‘Adivasi’ communities that have a lot of indigenous knowledge and there is a need to somehow recognize this knowledge and put it to better use,” he said.

Jaskiran Warrik, Project Lead, Food Innovation Hub, Food Systems Initiative (World Economic Forum), said the research agendas should be created which include women’s opinions on what burdens them, and work accordingly on making these agendas convenient, adding: “An ecosystem needs to be created in which women have the power to make decisions and this needs to ramp up and accelerate now.”

The discussion also threw light on the significant gender gap prevailing amongst agricultural casual workers. It also noted that women’s wages are at least 30 per cent lower than the male. The panel members further addressed the issue of women bearing the brunt of the impact of Covid as well as climate change.