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Gender, Work and Household Food Security

Women's role in food security may have earned acknowledgement, but there is no measure of how much and in what ways women actually contribute to household food security. The absence of a suitable methodology of assessment means that not only does their contribution remain vague but there is also a lack of solid data to draw policy inferences in terms of operationalisation of food security and women's empowerment. This article, based on research conducted in two villages in Nanded, Maharashtra, seeks to quantify women's contribution to household food security. Through investigation into the time-use pattern of women's activities, it also arrives at a method to estimate how much women contribute to security with their visible and invisible work.

Gender, Work and Household Food Security

Women’s role in food security may have earned acknowledgement, but there is no measure of how much and in what ways women actually contribute to household food security. The absence of a suitable methodology of assessment means that not only does their contribution remain vague but there is also a lack of solid data to draw policy inferences in terms of operationalisation of food security and women’s empowerment. This article, based on research conducted in two villages in Nanded, Maharashtra, seeks to quantify women’s contribution to household food security. Through investigation into the time-use pattern of women’s activities, it also arrives at a method to estimate how much women contribute to security with their visible and invisible work.


he fact that the household is not a homogeneous entity, and that the “right to equality” is frequently denied to women, with intra household factors influencing the distribution of resources and work within the household, is by now fairly well recognised even if not adequately reflected in mainstream social science literature. In general, women are losers in the household level distributive process and enjoy lesser rights for disproportionately higher work responsibilities. Correspondingly, women’s own status in terms of food and nutrition security is not commensurate with the huge contribution they make to household economy and food security. There is an urgent need for a focused understanding of women’s status and work participation with respect to food security for women themselves as well as for the family as a whole. Despite the literal recognition of women’s role [IFPRI 2000] there is a relative dearth of empirical work on how much women actually contribute to food security and through what ways. This leaves us with hardly any data to draw policy inferences vis-à-vis operationalisation of food security as well as women’s empowerment. The methodology required to estimate female contribution to household food security is itself a problematic issue. Given this, the paper based on the time-use analytical method attempts to quantify the contribution of rural women to household food security in a rural area of Nanded district in the state of Maharashtra and in the process develops the methodology itself.

For understanding women’s role in food security, it is crucial to develop a framework to assess the visible and invisible work of women. There is a need to identify specific areas where women’s work predominates both in terms of time spent as well in terms of contribution to household welfare. Moreover, the generation and diffusion of information about the nature and quantity of women’s work is of considerable importance in this regard [Joy Deshmukh 2005]. This paper is an attempt in that direction. It is organised into five sections. Section I focuses on the understanding of various dimensions of food security with a special emphasis on gender relations. Some empirical evidence on measurement of women’s work is given in Section II. Section III presents the data and methods used in this study while Section IV provides the results of the case study. Finally, Section V offers some concluding observations and discusses policy implications.

I Levels of Food Security and the Interface with Gender

Before looking into the methodological issue of measuring women’s contribution to household food security, it is necessary to have a clear conceptual understanding of household food security and its interface with gender relations. Food security is a state when all individuals have stable access to minimum (based on certain norms) amount of food required for a healthy and active life. Household food security could also be viewed as a function in which the household combines its time and bought in market commodities to produce tangible or non-tangible goods that ultimately enters its utility function. Non-tangible goods such as warmth, nutrition and health are non-market commodities, usually bypassed by the market mechanism. It is this invisible, non-tangible component of household food security that underscores the crucial role of women and necessitates the application of time use survey.

As against household food security, individual food security depends on various visible and invisible intra-household factors such as gender and age. Overall household food security may not be a guarantee for individual food security. Often, food available to a household is not equally accessible to the men, women and children of the household. On account of the traditionally disadvantaged position of women, they are found to lose out in the process of food distribution and fare miserably on the front of nutrition security. The crucial role of women in household food security does not ensure food and nutrition security for them as individuals.

There are several theories and explanations for the traditionally disadvantaged position of women in south Asian societies. The crux of the issue seems to be that the bargaining power of an individual in the family depends upon her/his fallback position and women lose in the distribution of outcomes because they have weaker fallback position compared to men [Sen 1990 and Agarwal 1996]. However, it must be mentioned here that women’s weak fallback position is primarily attributable to prevalent ignorance about their work and its significance. There is an inherent tendency to look down upon their work, one important reason being the absence of direct monetary return from it since much of women’s work is unpaid, which is also perceived as obligatory. Besides, in case of paid work also women’s activities are found to be treated as insubstantial. There is clear-cut gender blindness towards women’s role in the economy resulting in a failure of distributive justice. One important way in which researchers have tried to underscore women’s work is by measuring it in monetary terms. In the last two decades a number of studies have carried out monetary valuation of women’s work.

II Measurement of Women’s Work: Empirical Evidence

Measurement of women’s work essentially involves valuation of their unpaid work and hence requires the application of timeuse analysis. Several studies have used time budget or time use analysis to assess women’s work. Work by Chadeau, Cooke, Bittman, Filtzgerald and Wicks is based on time use survey as a prime tool for analysing unpaid informal activities. In an international comparison of studies and methods used to measure household activities, Chadeau (1983) refers to Adler and Hawrylyshyn (1976), Murphy (1978), Chadeau and Fouquet (1981) and Suviranta (1982) who have made systematic use of time budget surveys. While using a similar approach the studies differ in the choice of the method of valuation of time.

Basically there are two ways of imputing the value of women’s unpaid work- forgone expense and forgone wage and most studies are based on them. Forgone expensemeasures expenditures saved by performing the task by oneself, while forgone wage measures the loss of income incurred by the person involved in unpaid domestic work instead of devoting an equivalent amount of time to paid work. Besides, time itself could be a measure of the extent of work. Cooke (2000) has simply looked into the allocation of time to study changes in intra-household allocation of labour for collection of environment goods, caused by changing environmental conditions in rural Nepal.

Fitzgerald and Wicks (1990) have measured household production by quantifying the “household production” (on the basis of time use survey) and multiplying by the market value per unit. Further, Tuteja (2000) has imputed the contribution of female agricultural workers in Haryana, to family income by measuring the time allocated using the “forgone wage” method. In an attempt to measure the real national output, beyond the gross national product (GNP), Nordhaus and Tobin derived the concept of New Economic Welfare (NEW) incorporating the household work of women and other informal activities that influence welfare function in the economy [Chadeau 1983].

These studies conclude that women’s work is indispensably significant for household as well as national welfare. Even though female participation in paid work is increasing, gender segregation in household work continues to persist. Social change regarding gendered division of labour has been a unidirectional phenomenon. Male participation in so-called feminine indoor tasks is not much visible [Bittman and Matheson 1996]. This undoubtedly has led to a kind of dual work burden for women. Unpaid household work constitutes an important share of the total work time for women and hence needs to be studied further. The data for developing countries show that girls tend to spend more time on domestic chores than boys and thus have more limited opportunities for education and leisure activities [World Bank 2001, see Chadeau 1983].

So far, measurement of women’s work has primarily been done for assessing real national output, real national welfare, female agricultural income or assessing household level impact of policy changes. Application of time use analysis for assessing women’s contribution to food security has hardly been done so far. Thus the present study seeks to advance knowledge regarding women’s work by first measuring the paid and unpaid work of women and extending upon that to assess women’s contribution to household food security.

III Profile of Study Area and Research Methods

The study is based on qualitative and quantitative research techniques. A combination of participatory rural appraisal techniques and household surveys based on a standardised questionnaire were used to gather information. The study covers two villages, Ashta and Umra located in Nanded district of Maharashtra. These two villages fall in the semi arid zone of western India. The population in these villages comprises of marathas, dalits, lambadas and gonds and other backward classes. In Ashta only 5 per cent of the population is maratha, while in Umra the proportion of maratha population is 14 per cent. Greater proportion of maratha population in Umra was seen to affect the work culture and work participation by upper caste women, which



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is less outward oriented as compared to that in Ashta. Occupationwise 60 per cent and more of the total households are farm households in both the villages. The proportion of agricultural labour household is higher in Ashta at 35 per cent as compared to 28 per cent in Umra. In both the villages around 5 per cent of the population is engaged in non-farm occupations. In Umra, agricultural labour is the only source of livelihood for most of the landless households whereas in Ashta, some traditional caste-based activities serve as an alternative livelihood. Allied activities like animal husbandry are not prominent as substantial income source in either of the villages.

In Ashta, the prime crop for the kharif and rabi seasons is cotton and chickpea respectively while groundnut is grown during summer. In Umra, soybean along with cotton are the main crops during kharif. During summer and rabi seasons, farmers grow groundnut and chickpea respectively as in Ashta. It is only the big farmers who undertake farm activities throughout the year. The medium and small farmers usually grow crops during kharif when there is enough water and to some extent during the rabi season also. In Umra, farm activities of small and medium farmers are better distributed across the year as compared to that in Ashta due to the higher rate of adoption of groundnut production technology.

Sample and Data Collection

The sample that accounts for 15 per cent of the total population of Umra and 10 per cent of the total population of Ashta has been selected on the basis of stratified random sampling. The population was classified into the household categories of landless, small, medium and large farmers. This landholding-based classification has enabled an understanding of different mechanisms in which women from different economic status contribute to food security, given that land ownership is the main indicator of socio-economic status in rural areas. Households with landholdings of six acres and above were categorised as large farmers, households having landholdings of 3.1 to six acres as medium farmers and households with landholdings of 0.1 to three acres were considered as small farm households. In addition a separate category of female-headed households irrespective of the size of their landholdings was also considered.

Focus group interviews and primary household survey were the primary techniques of data collection. A standard questionnaire with extensive coverage on household consumption pattern, activity profile and time use pattern, decision-making and access and control over resources was used for the household survey. For regular activities, in and outside the household, data has been collected using daily recall approach while agricultural and family income related information has been collected with reference to the period 2002-03.

Data Analysis: Need for Time-Use Method

Time-use analytical approach has been used for data analysis. The time allocation approach or time-use pattern looks at the contribution of men and women to different activities in terms of amount of time spent on that activity. Basically, it is employed for the valuations of activities which cannot be quantified in monetary terms and remain unaccounted by market analysis. Information on allocation of time to household production of substitutes for market output, as well as on the allocation of time to leisure activities are provided by time budget survey. Such information is conspicuous by its absence in other types of household surveys. Time-use analysis is especially useful in understanding the gendered division of labour in the household as well as studying the changes if any, in existing gender relations vis-à-vis allocation of work and distribution of resources between male and female family members. According to Apps (2003), time-use data are essential for policy analysis in a wide range of areas and, in particular, for analysing the following:

  • (i) The intra-household allocation of resources and distribution of real income.
  • (ii) Household living standards.
  • (iii) The effects of changes in policy variables on household decisions concerning, for example, market labour supply, domestic production, consumption and saving.

    However, it is to be underlined throughout that monetisation of women’s unpaid work only provides for its minimum valuation and is required to underscore its economic importance. There are greater qualitative aspects of women’s work which cannot be captured by any monetary measure, not even by time-use method. The indispensable dependence of the whole household on women’s work and their capability to do multiple tasks simultaneously are such unquantifiable features beyond any monetary measure. Chadeau and Fouquet [Chadeau 1983] have aptly stated that imputing money value to unpaid household work (as this paper does) may mask the specificity of such work; it is nonetheless a procedure to render this form of activity visible and comparable to officially measured market activities and a means to give it an order of magnitude.

    This paper as mentioned earlier makes systematic use of timeuse analysis to study the role of women in household food security, which is basic to raise the household living standard. While focus group interviews helped in developing a conceptual overview on women’s role in food security, data on time-use enabled quantitative measurement of the same. Rural women’s contribution towards household food security is assessed with the help of information gathered on family income, activity profile and time-use pattern for farm and domestic work. Here, activity profile is meant to render information on various types of activities – in or outside the household, which men and women perform. While monetary contribution through wage or other income is easily assessable, the challenge lies in measuring the non-monetary contributions through non-wage labour on the family farm and in the household. For the latter, the study looks at the time allocated by women to household work or work on the family farm.

    The unpaid work of men and women is measured in terms of “number of hours per day” during the given year 2002-03. Timeuse pattern for family farm work has been studied across three main agricultural seasons (each of four months) of the year, growing different seasonal crops. Time allocated on various farm activities is collected for a season and number of hours spent per day on farm work has been calculated by averaging out that total time for the whole season. This calculation has been done for all the three seasons. Again, the average daily number of hours spent on the family farm during the year is concluded by averaging out the seasonal value of daily hours on the family farm. It should be noticed that there is considerable variation in farm activities across the days, though there is considerable similarity in those activities across the seasons. For domestic activities, the number of hours spent per day on the activities has been calculated simply by adding the number of hours spent on each as collected through daily recall basis.

    The monetary value of these unpaid works is imputed using the prevailing wage rate as conversion factor. It is to be noticed however that since women’s wage rate (Rs 20/day) is lower than the wage rate prevailing for men (Rs 30/day) in the villages, this can be an underestimation of their contribution. So, as an alternative, the valuation of women’s non-wage work is done using the male wage rate as well.

    Overall women’s contribution to household food security is assessed by monetary quantification of their unpaid work in households and family farms and adding that to their direct contribution to earned income, if any. Thus, female contribution to household food security can be expressed through the following function: HFSF = f (WIF, Hr.FamFF, Hr.HWF, , OF) where HFSF = Female contribution to household food security

    Hr.Fam.FF = Number of hours spent per day by women on

    family farm
    Hr.HWF = Number of hours spent per day by women on
    daily household work
    WIF = Daily wage income earned by household women
    OF = Daily income earned by household women from
    other sources, if any
    HFSF = f (Female contribution to food availability, acces
    sibility, utilisation and stability of access to food)

    It is on the basis of this functional relationship that the present article proceeds to assess the contribution of women of the family to household food security.

    IV Results and Discussion

    The Gender Division of Labour in Ashta and Umra

    As in the rest of the world, women and men in Ashta and Umra inhabit an environment which is gendered in terms of work, work place, and the use of technologies. Manual work especially if repetitive and monotonous is a female task, while tasks which are mechanically advanced fall into the male sphere. The home is defined as the domain of women while the work-place has increasingly been constructed in a male idiom, despite the fact that women work in the fields in large numbers. Along these lines, a clear-cut division of labour between men and women in both Ashta and Umra is observed (Figure 1). Women usually perform tasks which require so-called feminine endurance and patience. In contrast, men perform non-repetitive tasks, are not monotonous.

    Women almost solely take charge of household work irrespective of whether they work and earn outside or not. Daily household work includes a wide range of activities. Besides cooking, cleaning and childcare women take care of animal husbandry, fetching water and firewood collection as well. For the latter they have to travel long distances after finishing other household work. In addition they work on the family farm as well. Though there is some extent of overlap in work carried out by men and women, overall there is a broad division of labour. Men and women in Ashta and Umra work together on farms but perform different kind of works as seen in Figure 1. It is perceived that women undertake work which requires sustained effort and endurance. This includes work like cleaning and weeding, layout preparation, application of manure, threshing, cleaning grains etc.

    Figure 1: Gender Division of Labour in Ashta and Umra

    Gender division of family labour in Ashta and Umra Female Male

    Marketing activities are wholly specific to men. Even femaleheaded households are dependent on male relatives for marketing. Annual/contract based wage work on others’ farm is available primarily to men. So even among wage workers, women rank low in the hierarchy. They are paid less as compared to male counterparts for similar work. There are some community specific income generating activities but these also are practised by men. These include drum beating on occasions and broom making. Women have little occupational choice and they are compelled to take up low-paid, exploitative jobs.

    Developing a Framework

    The gender division of labour in the two villages underscores that women are the mainstay of small-scale agriculture, farm labour force and day-to-day family subsistence. Women’s contribution to food security is visible through all the three pillars of food security, viz, food production, food accessibility and food utilisation. Through working as wage labourers as well as non wage labourers on the family farm, and participating in a number of post harvest activities they make invisible contributions to food production. Further, women are responsible for making food available to their families if not through production then by earning the income to purchase it or by compromising on their own dietary intake during periods of food shortage. The latter is an important coping mechanism against shocks to food security in the villages under study. Women are found to spend a greater proportion of their additional income on family needs as compared to men, thus making available food, etc, to their families. The third pillar of food security is utilisation of the food accessed by the household. This depends entirely upon women who

    In household

    Cooking, cleaning, childcare, fetching water, browsing and collecting firewood, food processing and storage, animal husbandry activities

    In household

    Browsing and collecting firewood, animal husbandry activities and food storage

    On family farm

    Clod crushing, layout preparations, sowing operations, application of chemical fertiliser, irrigation, plant protection, harvesting, market activities

    On family farm

    Land cleaning, layout preparations, sowing operations, application of manure, weeding, harvesting threshing, drying and cleaning grains

    Wage labour

    Wage labour

    Other business/ salaried job

    Figure 2: Rural Women’s Contribution to Household FoodSecurity – A Framework from Ashta and Umra

    Fuel wood and Medicine Browse and collect Milk and protein Fertiliser Livestock production Female labour Paid labour As wage labour, domestic servant, selling petty products, vending, etc Unpaid labourAs daily homework,working on the familyfarm, supervisingfarm work, childcare, kitchen gardening etc Agricultural production/foodgrain availability Household production/ food security Forest and fallow National food security

    undertake food processing activities and prepare the daily meal. Proper food utilisation and nutritional security reflects adequate protein, energy, micronutrient and mineral intake for household members. The latter depends also upon the extent of childcare and sanitation which is taken care of solely by women.

    To be more specific, in any common household in the villages, women contribute to food security in multiple but overlapping ways. By looking separately at their paid and unpaid labour it is possible to understand women’s invisible role in a better way. Figure 2 presents a simplified framework to understand women’s contribution towards household food security as observed in the villages.

    Besides working as wage labour, women also render labour service on family farms, which is usually overlooked. As part of other unpaid work, women perform activities crucial to household food security. These include daily domestic work comprised of cooking, fetching water, collecting fuel wood, child care, rearing livestock, kitchen gardening and working on family farm. Through their work on family farm, women contribute directly towards agricultural production and productivity. Through browsing and collecting in the forest and from fallow areas they provide firewood and medicine for the family.

    All these activities of women are directly or indirectly crucial to food security of the household irrespective of whether they are able to manage their own individual food security. Daily activities of women when seen together, present a complete perspective of their role in household food security. It is on the basis of this framework that the paper proceeds to quantify women’s contribution to household food security.

    Work Participation by Men and Women of the Household

    According to the World’s Women 2000 (United Nations), work refers to “the participation of individuals in productive activities for which they either receive remuneration for their participation or are unpaid because they are contributors to a family business enterprise. It also includes subsistence production of goods for their own households and non economic activities such as domestic work, family and elder care, construction and repair of owner occupied buildings and volunteer work for which the individuals receive no remuneration”. Clearly, the definition views all work as equally important and has vital implications for understanding work participation by women. As we will see, unpaid work especially daily domestic work takes a heavy toll on women’s time, though a large fraction of domestic activities pertain to tasks related to farm such as cleaning and drying grains, food storage, etc. This section looks at the work participation by men and women from an average household in terms of number of hours spent on different kinds of unpaid work, i e, other than wage income generating activities.

    In a farm household, men and women allocate their time between domestic work and farm and allied activities. Domestic work includes mainly cooking, cleaning, childcare, fetching water, browsing and collecting firewood, kitchen gardening and food storage and processing. All work done on farms like land preparation, inter cultivation, threshing, drying etc and transporting and marketing are farm activities. There is considerable overlap in women’s household work and farm work. As noticed in the previous paragraph, many hours of women’s household work is devoted to farm related activities having implications for agricultural productivity than just domestic routine work. Supervision of farm activities, which takes a heavy toll on time in large farm households, is also considered as work in this study.

    As seen from Tables 1 and 2, the number of hours that women spend on domestic activities is very high as compared to men but total time spent by them on family farm is not very less as compared to the men.1 In fact, in Umra number of hours per day spent by women on family farm considering all categories together is greater than that of men. In Ashta, women from medium farm household spend 1.8 hours per day on the family farm, which is greater than that of their male counterparts at 1.62 hours. Women from large farm household in Ashta work much more than their counterparts in Umra, primarily because of the demographic characteristic whereby the latter has far greater proportion of traditional Marathas in the large farm category. In Umra,

    Table 1: Number of Hours Devoted by Men and Womenon the Family Farm Per Day

    Household Categories Number of Hours/Day

    Ashta Umra Male Female Male Female

    Large MHH 1.75 1.7 0.82 0.2 Medium MHH 1.62 1.8 2.9 3.01 Small MHH 0.74 0.71 1.15 1.27 FHH 0 0.065 0.027 1.46 All 1.02 0.91 1.22 1.48

    MHH – Male Headed Households. FHH – Female Headed Households.

    Table 2: Number of Hours Devoted by Men and Womenon Domestic Activities Per Day

    Household Categories Number of Hours/Day Ashta Umra Male Female Male Female

    Large MHH 1.1 5.05 0.51 8.62 Medium MHH 1.93 5.3 0.65 8.25 Small MHH 2.17 7.6 0.81 6.05 Landless MHH 1.05 7.9 1.18 7 FHH 0604.7 All 1.25 6.37 0.63 6.92

    women from most of the large farm households do not go out to farm at all due to traditional taboos.

    Looking at different household categories, the prevalent perception that women from large and medium farms household do not participate much in farm activities does not seem to be applicable to Ashta. This is possible because these women spend a lot of time in supervising the work going on in their family farm. While doing so they were found to be doing manual work along with the farm labourers. Besides, their farms are of a large size with large-scale farm activities going on so that the same activity takes much longer on an average day as compared to that on small farms. In case of small farm households, both men and women perform all agricultural activities on their own. Due to the small size of their farms the number of hours spent per day by men and women on the family farm is not very high compared to that in case of large and medium farm households. In case of female-headed households all farm activities whether through manual work or through supervision is taken care of solely by women. The amount of time they spend per day on farm activity also depends on the size of their landholdings. Overall, women are observed to be equal participants in family farm work, though there are variations across castes and classes, which are found to influence the extent of participation.

    As far as domestic work is considered women from large and medium farm households in Umra spend around eight hours per day as compared to around five hours per day in Ashta. This is attributable to the relatively higher income and status of large farmers in Ashta due to the relatively large average size of their farm holdings (around 30-40 acres) as compared to that in Umra (10-15 acres). Large farm households in Ashta maintain a comfortable standard of living and women are assisted by domestic servants, which is not seen in Umra. The number of hours (six to seven hours per day) spent on domestic work is quite high for women from small farm households and landless household, which is obvious given their low economic status. In Umra, number of hours devoted to domestic work per day by women from large farm households is greater than small and landless farm households primarily because they have to undertake large-scale food storage and processing activities mostly without any assistance.

    As seen from Table 3, the proportional share of men in total work done on family farm is little above that of women in all the household categories except in the female-headed households.2 Even in cases where the relative burden of farm work is greater on men the gap is not much. Due to the explanation cited above, women from large farm household in Ashta share relatively greater burden of farm work as compared to those in Umra. To understand the overall relative work burden on women, their relatively less burden of farm work has to be seen in the context of the huge gap in domestic work burden shared by men and women (Table 4). Also use of women’s labour in crops like rice, wheat, maize – which provide up to 90 per cent of the rural poor’s food intake – is much higher compared to that in groundnut, chickpea, soyabean, etc, which are prime crops grown in the area under study. Their contribution to secondary crop production, such as legumes and vegetables, is even greater. Use of female labour on family farms of these two villages – Ashta and Umra, hovers around 50 per cent except in large farm households of Umra. It can be inferred therefore, that in agricultural areas growing paddy, wheat, maize, etc, and doing horticulture, women share much greater burden of agricultural work and family farming as compared to the men. It is possible therefore, that this estimate of female work participation (and household food security later on) could not be representative of Indian rural women’s role in the same adequately.

    In the villages under study, combining both farm and household work women come to shoulder the greater burden of overall work as compared to their male counterparts. This supports various findings on women’s work that once their unpaid work is counted, women are found to work for longer hours as compared to men [World Bank 2001; see Chadeau 1983].

    Women’s Contribution to Family Wage and Non-Wage Income

    This section presents a disaggregated picture of women’s share in family wage income and income from other sources, whichever is applicable for an average household across different categories. Disaggregating the family wage income is important for small and landless farmers and to some extent for medium farm households also because members of large farm households do not need to get involved in farm labour. Table 5 shows daily wage and other earning if any, by household men and women from different categories. It is clear that other sources of income or self-enterprise activities hardly exist for women. The only source

    Table 3: Proportional Share of Family Farm Work Doneby Men and Women

    Household Proportional Share in Percentage

    Categories Ashta Umra Male Female Women’s Male Female Women’s Work Burden Work Burden Compared Compared to Men to Men

    Large MHH 56 44 -12 70 30 -40 Medium MHH 57.50 42.5 -15 48 52 4 Small MHH 51 49 -2 52 48 -4 FHH 0 100 100 3.5 96.5 93 All 41 59 18 46 54 8

    Table 4: Proportional Share of Daily Domestic Work Doneby Men and Women

    Household Proportional Share in Percentage

    Categories Ashta Umra Male Female Women’s Male Female Women’s Work Burden Work Burden Compared Compared to Men to Men

    Large MHH 13 87 74 2 98 96 Medium MHH 35 65 30 8 92 84 Small MHH 13 87 74 11 89 78 Landless MHH 13 87 74 15 85 70 FHH 0 100 100 0 100 100 All 15 85 70 793 86

    Table 5: Average Daily Wage and Other Earnings by Males and Females in Different Household Categories

    Household Ashta Umra

    Categories Wage Other Wage Other Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female

    Landless MHH 51.8 16 24 0 19.7 12.3 6.2 6.2 Medium MHH 18.6 3.2 0 0 17.8 6.5 38.3 0 Small MHH 26 8.7 0 0 2.4 9.1 15.3 0 FHH 27.114.7 0 0 0 13.1 0 0 Large MHH 0 00 0 0 022.80 All 27.7 8.5 4.8 0 10 10.2 16.5 1.2

    of income is to indulge in wage-based activities in agriculture.

    Overall, women’s contribution to the family’s average wage income is Rs 8.5/day in Ashta and Rs 10.2/day in Umra (Table 5).3 In landless households, women work as farm labour but because of low wage rate compared to male counterparts, their actual contribution in monetary terms is relatively low at around Rs 16 day and Rs 12.3/day in Ashta and Umra respectively. In medium farm household, women’s contribution to family wage income is relatively greater than that of men, both in Ashta and Umra. This can be attributed to the fact that women in these households involve themselves relatively more in farm labour while men are engaged mostly on family farm.

    Table 6 shows women’s share in family wage income (in percentage). In landless households, women work more as farm labour but because of low wage rate compared to male counterparts, their relative share in family wage income is quite less at around 29 per cent and 38 per cent in Ashta and Umra respectively.

    The percentage share of household males and females in family cultivation income has been calculated in proportion to their share in total family labour used on family farm (Table 7). In the case of Ashta women’s share in family cultivation, income is uniform at more than 40 per cent for all farm household categories while in Umra, it varies with household category. In Umra as is expected usually, the percentage share of females in total cultivation is smallest for large landholding classes at 20 per cent. But in Ashta, the women from large landholdings have an equally important share. The share of females in family farm income is almost

    Table 6: Percentage Share of Males and Femalesin Family Wage Income

    Household Categories Percentage Share in Total Ashta Umra Male Female Male Female

    Landless MHH 71 29 62 38 Medium MHH 60 40 60 40 Small MHH 58 42 66 34 FHH 40 60 0100 All 57.25 42.75 38.5 61.5

    Table 7: Percentage Share of Males and Females in Family Cultivation Income

    Household Categories Percentage Share

    Ashta Umra Male Female Male Female

    Large MHH 58 42 80 20 Medium MHH 59 41 48 52 Small MHH 55 45 52 48 FHH 0 100 0.5 96.5 All 43 57 45.12 54.88

    Table 8: Monetary Value of Per Day Farm Work Done by Menand Women on Family Farm

    Household Value in Rupees

    Categories Ashta Umra
    Male Female Female Male Female Female
    with Male with with Male with
    Wage Rate Female Wage Female
    Wage Rate Rate Wage Rate
    Large MHH 52.5 5 1 2 4 24.6 6 4
    Medium MHH 48.6 35.4 23.6 8 7 90.3 60.2
    Small MHH 22.2 21.3 14.2 34.5 38.1 25.2
    FHH 0 1.95 1.3 0.81 43.8 29.4
    All 30.8 27.4 18.27 36.72 44.55 29.7

    100 per cent in case of female-headed households in both the villages.

    Quantification of Women’s Unpaid Work

    This is one important component of women’s contribution towards household food security. To begin with, the value of unpaid household and family farm work (in the sense described above) of women are quantified in monetary terms following the function cost approach, i e, by estimating the forgone wage they could earn by spending equivalent time on paid work outside the household. It is noticeable again that the value of the same farm work becomes quite low when calculated at female wage rate. The same work done by male counterparts fetches a higher value because of the wage difference.

    Tables 8 and 9 present respectively the monetary values of per day farm and domestic work done by male and female family members. As expected, Table 9 shows that the quantity of domestic work done by women and the value deduced, increases as the economic status of households in Ashta goes down in terms of landholding. This is because women from small farm and landless households’ classes face greater hardship in terms of fetching water and fuel wood while women from large farm households rely on domestic servants for these kinds of work.

    In Umra, the quantity of work done by women from large farm households is greater because of allied agricultural activities which women from small farm and landless households do not have to undertake. Besides, as mentioned earlier large farm household women in Umra hardly get any help for these domestic activities. Overall, the value of women’s farm work is not much less than their male counterparts especially if calculated at male wage rate whereas the value of women’s domestic work is much higher than men even at female wage rate.

    Quantifying Female Contribution to Household Food Security

    This is calculated by adding up the monetary value of women’s work hours on the family farm and in the household to their direct share in wage or other income and measuring that as a percentage of food security requirement for an average household in rural areas as proposed by the World Bank.

    Thus, Average Value of Female Contribution to Household Food Security (per day) = Average daily wage earning + Average daily earning from other sources + Average money value of women’s work per day on family farm + Average money value of women’s domestic work per day

    The World Bank has set food security requirement at $1.08 per capita per day at 1993 prices, the rupee equivalent of which stands at Rs 48.6 at an exchange rate of Rs 45 per dollar. At daily level the minimum requirement for food security per household has been computed by multiplying the number of members in each household to the per capita requirement of Rs 48.6 so that each household’s food security requirement differs from the other owing to different family sizes (Table 10).

    Table 11 presents the average monetary value of male and female contribution to household food security in absolute terms. It is clear that irrespective of household category, female contribution in this direction is much higher than male, both at female and male wage rates. Considering all categories, female contribution to household food security is around Rs 150 in Ashta and Rs 180 per day in Umra at female wage rate, which is much higher than those of men at Rs 81 and Rs 50 per day computed at male wage rate. The contribution of family women to household food security varies in proportion to the amount of domestic and family farm work that women from each household category undertake.

    Percentage contribution of women to household food security requirement according to World Bank norm is given in Table 12. It is clear that in all the categories women are responsible for more than 70 per cent of the food security requirement of their families if the conversion factor is female wage rate. Considering

    Table 9: Monetary Value of Per Day Domestic Work Done by Men (at Male Wage Rate) and Women (at Female Wage Rate) in the Household

    Household Value in Rupees

    Categories Ashta Umra Male Female Female Male Female Female with Male with with Male with Wage Rate Female Wage Female Wage Rate Rate Wage Rate

    Large MHH 33 160.6 101 15.3 258 172.4 Medium MHH 57.9 204.9 106 19.5 247.5 165 Small MHH 65.1 203.7 152 24.3 182.5 121 Landless MHH 31.5 243 158 35.4 210 140 FHH 0 180 120 0125 94 All 37.5 192.4 127.4 18.5 204.6 138.4

    Table 10: Daily Food Security Requirements (in Rupees) of Households from Each Category according to World Bank Standard

    Value in Rupees

    Household Category Ashta Umra

    Large MHH 157 225 Medium MHH 270 180 Small MHH 195 212 Landless MHH 225 241 FHH 180 120 All 205.4 195.6

    Table 11: Per Day Male and Female Contribution in Rupeesto Household Food Security

    Value in Rupees

    Ashta Umra Household Male Female Female Male Female Female Categories with Male with Female with Male with Female

    Wage Rate Wage Rate Wage Rate Wage Rate

    Large MHH 85.5 202.5 35 45.4 264.6 176.7 Medium MHH 113.2 196.7 132 121.7 344.3 231.7 Small MHH 106.2 258.06 175 23 228.6 155.4 Landless MH 93.1 253 174 61.6 229.8 87.8 FHH 9.8 196.7 136 0.8 200.9 136.8 All 81.5 221.4 150.4 50.5 252.2 180

    Table 12: Female Contribution to Household Food Security as a Percentage of World Bank Norm

    Value in Percentage

    Ashta Umra Household With Male With Female With Male With Female Categories Wage Rate Wage Rate Wage Rate Wage Rate

    Large MHH 135 80 117 78 Medium MHH 90 49 191 129 Small MHH 120 90 108 73 Landless MHH 115 77 95 78 FHH 109 76 152 114 All 114 74 133 94

    all categories together, female contribution to household food security is around 75 per cent in Ashta and 90 per cent in Umra at female wage rate. As observed from Table 8, in most of the households women’s contribution to household food security when measured at male wage rate is much higher than (more than 100 per cent of) the minimum stipulated norm for a food secure household.

    The desegregation of the daily work, paid or unpaid done in previous sections through the time-use analysis re-establishes the preposition that unpaid activities especially daily household works form the core of female labour use, though it must be kept in mind that in rural areas there is a lot of overlap between farm and domestic activities of women. This investigation clearly brings out the different components of household food security that seek appropriate policy and social intervention from a gender perspective.

    In these two villages, women are found to contribute to all dimensions of food security. Working as wage labourers and on the family farm for one to two hours daily reflects women’s contribution towards a household’s entitlement and ability to command food. More than six hours (Table 2) spent daily on domestic activities, which are rather diverse (Figure 2) indicates women’s contribution to household’s ability to access and utilise food available and to avoid starvation through stability of access. Accessibility and stability of access are two dimensions of food security where rural women are found to make the highest contribution. As observed from Tables 1 and 2, the unpaid and informal activities corner a major chunk (around 90 per cent) of their time and it is this aspect that needs to be taken care of while attempting to enhance household food security.

    In addition, there is a third dimension to women’s contribution towards household food security, viz, compromising on their own consumption level to make up for any shortfall in food availability for the rest of the household. Focus group interviews with the village men and women brought out the fact that an important coping mechanism adopted by women against household food insecurity is forgoing their own consumption to feed their children. This phenomenon is associated with seasonal variation in food availability for poor people of the villages.

    V Conclusion and Policy Implications

    Overall, on the basis of the findings from the study of Ashta and Umra, the following conclusions can be drawn regarding women’s role vis-à-vis household food security:

  • (i) Shrinking work space for household men: Considering all household categories together, women’s work participation in terms of number of hours spent per day on the family farm is almost equal to or more than their male counterparts, with the highest work participation coming from medium farm households. In terms of simultaneity and multiplicity of tasks, household women fair incomparably better than household men.
  • (ii) Household is the woman’s domain: Almost the entire domestic work burden is shouldered by women alone and it is daily household activity that takes up most of women’s total time spent on food-related activities. These domestic activities consist of several farm-related activities as well such as grain cleaning and drying, threshing, seed selection and preservation and so on. These works generate direct value addition for agricultural production and productivity.
  • (iii) Predominance of unpaid work: Overall, household women’s total time worked exceeds men’s and more than 75 per cent of women’s total work time is diverse but remains unpaid. These invisible activities in household and on the family farm form the core of female labour use.

  • (iv) Comparable share in income: Female share in family cultivation income and wage income is almost equal to that of their male counterparts considering all categories together. It is highest for female-headed households. The disparity in wage income exists due to discriminatory wage practices with male wage rate being twice that of female wage rate.
  • (v) Women are pivots of household food security: On the whole, women are responsible for more than 70 per cent of their families’ food security requirements, that too if value is assessed at female wage rate. They play a crucial role in all the four pillars of food security, viz, availability, accessibility, utilisation and stability of access.
  • As mentioned in section four, crops grown in these two villages are less female labour-intensive not in comparison with the male labour use in these crops but as compared to female labour use in crops like paddy, wheat, maize, etc, grown in other parts of the country. Therefore, female contribution to farm work and hence household food security could actually be much higher in those parts than the values concluded for the rural areas under study.

    Quantification of female contribution to food security using the methodology developed in this paper is one of the several ways to understand women’s role in the same. As noticed earlier, relying solely on this would ignore the qualitative variations of certain kind of women’s work which have no close substitute. In this case, it might also amount to undervaluing of women’s work. However, given the relative ignorance about women’s work and the absence of a suitable alternative, such studies provide some idea and estimate of their contribution. By breaking down and valuing various components of women’s work, this paper reveals their relative importance for overall food security. This has important policy implications.

    The fact that women are “key” to food security despite being engulfed by severe resource constraints and lack of independence underscores the need for greater access and control over resources for them. Transfer of basic economic rights like land right to women is an input to their empowerment and ability to contribute to household economy. This in turn, could boost their influence on household decision-making and the distributive process. Increase in entitlements through gender-based parity in wages and rising minimum wages can also enhance women’s ability to contribute to household and their own food security. Policies, thus, can help indirectly in improvement of women’s position within the household, through increasing the scope for women’s wage work, occupational mobility and knowledge sharing.

    Another important policy implication relates to the generation of non-farm employment opportunities for rural women. As Sen (1990) has pointed out, access to “gainful work outside” will strengthen women’s fallback position and bargaining power in the household. According to him, the type of work is of significance in augmenting women’s share of household resources. So the more the woman is economically active, the better is her control over resources. This again has a favourable impact from the point of view of food security given the greater propensity of women to spend their income on the family well-being.

    Further, time use data in this study indicate tremendous work burden on women underlining the need for infrastructural development. In other words, facilities like better water supply, provision of cooking gas, etc, can reduce hardship for women and free their time for income generating activities or leisure.

    Finally, the policy interventions vis-à-vis food security ought to be women-centric and must recognise woman’s indispensable role in household food security. There needs to be a special focus on the role of women as separate from that of the whole community.




    [This article is based on the MPhil dissertation titled ‘Women’s Contribution to Household Food Security: A Case Study of Two Indian Villages’, 2004, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Mumbai. Fieldwork was supported by the International Crop Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad through its project titled ‘Gender Dimensions in Technology Adoption, and Build Up of Social Capital’, 2004, for which the authors contributed as an intern and consultant respectively.]

    1 The no of hours in the Tables 1 and 2 has been arrived at by averaging total number of hours spent by each household from a particular category on various activities.

    2 The proportional share of farm and domestic work done by men and women has been arrived at by dividing the respective number of hours spent on these works by the total number of work hours devoted by both sexes to these works (Tables 3 and 4).

    3 The wage-income has been arrived at by averaging out daily wages earned by men and women during the period of employment. However, for the convenience of analysis this average is distributed over all the 365 days


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