KOLATHUL CHENNAI, India — Women in India are improving conditions for landless laborers in their villages by working small plots of land, providing nutritious food for neighbors.
The Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective has created about 25 collective farms throughout India that are taking this approach to improve farming techniques and women’s livelihoods.
The TNWC is a group of Indian women working together to see gender equality in their country. There are approximately 60,000 members from all ages, backgrounds, class systems and geographic locations.
The organization has worked for years to improve the position of women in India. Eight years ago, the group began offering workshops to women on topics such as sustainable cultivation, seed saving and organic fertilizer production. The first collective farms were created four years ago and have been growing steadily.
These local farms are benefiting women and families across the country. The largest group that is prospering from the farming initiative are the Dalits, or the “untouchable” caste in the Indian social hierarchy. The TNWC is empowering over a million Dalit women to become self-sufficient workers.
Currently and traditionally, many Indian women worked as landless farmers, where they would earn less than $1 a day. Surveys have shown that up to 340 million people in India are dependent on these types of salaries, which are not sufficient.
According to the The Hindu, India’s national newspaper, “Global research shows that landlessness is the best predicator of poverty in India — a much better predicator than either illiteracy or membership of a traditionally ‘untouchable’ caste.”
The farm plots are providing a place for people — and women in particular — to farm on their own pieces of land. The practice provides many benefits to these people.
They are able to grow their own produce, which allows them to have a more varied and nutritiously-balanced diet. They can grow products like sesame, pulses and millet, which are all native crops dense in protein and vitamins.
The women working on these plots also see a rise in their incomes. By farming, they are able to earn more than $1 a day. By operating their own land, they are much more likely to stay out of poverty and continue providing farming services that benefit their communities.
The Dalit women involved in the farming program also believe that, by being self-sufficient, their social status within the community has been elevated. Normally, Dalit women are looked down upon in their communities, but they are becoming more empowered through the farming initiative.
Current laws in India indicate that women are practically equal to men. However, this is not carried out in much of the country, especially in rural areas. The main goal of the TNWC is to ensure that women are being treated fairly. The group works against harmful components of Indian culture, including domestic violence, predatory money lenders, caste discrimination, environmental destruction and more. They also operate in politics, inspiring members to run for offices that will create change for women.
In a country that recently ranked as of the top five worst countries to be a mother, Indian women are advancing. They are more self-sufficient than ever before, and they are making strides to become equals with their male counterparts.