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119 Int'l Lab. Rev. 425 (1980)
The Plight of Rural Women: Alternatives for Action

handle is hein.journals/intlr119 and id is 439 raw text is: International Labour Review, Vol. 119, No. 4, July-August 1980

The plight of rural women:
alternatives for action'
Zubeida AHMAD °
1. Introduction
In developing countries generally women form a high proportion of
the rural workforce, with some variations based on cultural and traditional
practices as well as class or caste distinctions. Obviously rural women,
like rural men, cannot be treated as a homogeneous category; the wives
and daughters of the rich, and rich women in their own right (e.g.
landowners and money-lenders), contribute little in terms of labour. But
with these exceptions the majority of women who live in the rural areas of
developing countries make a vital contribution to rural production, both
farm and non-farm.
Women perform many of the crucial as well as laborious tasks in the
home and on the farm. They carry out a large number of duties related to
food production, besides helping with the cultivation of cash crops. In
addition to looking after the children and other members of the family,
their functions include food processing, water carrying, cloth making, etc.,
tasks which in industrialised societies are performed outside the household
and are allocated through the market mechanism.
All this involves long hours and hard, physically demanding work
ranging from food preparation at dawn while other family members are
still resting, to carrying water and fuel over long distances and caring for
small children while working in the fields and on development project sites.
It has been estimated that rural women's actual daily working hours can be
as high as 15-16, often considerably more than those of men. They suffer
from a double burden of exploitation: along with their menfolk, as part of
the rural poor; and, in addition, as members of the female sex. In many
parts of the world, from the time they are born, rural women are given a
minimum of medical care, less than their fair share of the family food and
an inferior education (with the result that literacy rates for women are lower
than those for men), and have to put up with poor working conditions,
including lower wages for tasks involving hard physical labour.2
* International Labour Office.

Copyright © International Labour Organisation 1980

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