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According to The World's Women and Girls: 2011, Population Reference Bureau, please click here to access: 


• In India during 2005-06, 30 percent of women and 26 men agreed that wife beating is acceptable if a wife argues with her husband

• During 2005-06, 14 percent women and 8 percent men in India agreed that wife beating is acceptable if a wife refuses sex with her husband

• In many countries, men make the decisions regarding household purchases for both daily items and larger purchases, limiting women’s economic empowerment in the home. Additionally, when women cannot decide when to visit their own family, they are subject to social isolation and their personal autonomy is reduced.

• 45 percent, 40 percent, 25 percent of women aged 20-24 years in South Central Asia, sub-Sahran Africa and Latin America and the Carribean respectively get married by age 18 years. 47% of women in India between the ages of 20 and 24 were married by 18.

• Total fertility rate (TFR) i.e. the average number of children a woman would have throughout her childbearing years (usually considered to be aged 15 to 49 years) in India is 2.6.

• Percentage of Indian women aged 15-19 years giving birth in one year i.e. births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19 (the age-specific fertility rate), divided by 10 is 6.

• Percentage of married Indian women using modern contraceptives (include clinic and supply methods such as the pill, injectables, implants, IUD, condom, and sterilization) is 49.

• Percentage of births attended by skilled personnel (includes doctors, nurses and midwives) in India is 47.

• Maternal mortality ratio, the number of deaths to women per 100,000 live births (2008) in India is 230.

• Percentage of the female population aged 15 to 24 in India who can both read and write, with understanding, a short simple statement on everyday life is 74 whereas the same figure for male population is 88.

• Women as percentage of Indian Parliament in 2010 is 11.

• Women as percentage of nonfarm wage earners (2005-2010) in India is 18.

• Female secondary school enrollment as percent of male enrollment (2005-2010) in India is 88.

• Without sex-selective abortion, the natural sex ratio is 1.05 (about 105 boys born for every 100 girls). However, in countries where sex-selective abortion takes place, the birth ratios are much higher than 1.05, meaning a disproportionate number of boys are born. Sex-selective abortion has significant consequences for the number of men and women in an overall population. However, the United Nations projects that highly skewed sex ratios in most countries will decline in the coming decades. Only India is projected to remain steady at 1.08.

According to The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011 Women in Agriculture: Closing the gender gap for development, please click here to access:

• Almost 70 percent of employed women in Southern Asia and more than 60 percent of employed women in sub-Saharan Africa work in agriculture.

• Women comprise, on average, 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, ranging from 20 percent in Latin America to 50 percent in Eastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

• The share of women in the agricultural labour force has remained steady at just over 30 percent in India.

• The female share of the agricultural labour force appears to have increased dramatically, such as Pakistan where it has almost tripled since 1980, to 30 percent, and Bangladesh where women now exceed 50 percent of the agricultural labour force.

• Estimates of the time contribution of women to agricultural activities range from 32 percent in India to over 50 percent in China.

• While the national average for women’s share of total time-use in agriculture is 32 percent, the share ranges from less than 10 percent in West Bengal to more than 40 percent in Rajasthan.

• Girls aged between 14 and 19 contribute up to 60 percent of the total time spent on agriculture.

• Women work longer hours than men in vegetable contract-farming schemes controlled by male farmers in the Indian Punjab.

• An estimated two-thirds of poor livestock keepers, totaling approximately 400 million people, are women.

• The influence of women is strong in the use of eggs, milk and poultry meat for home consumption and they often have control over marketing these products and the income derived from them.

• Information provided to FAO from 86 countries indicates that in 2008, 5.4 million women worked as fishers and fish farmers in the primary sector. This represents 12 percent of the total. In two major producing countries, China and India, women represented a share of 21 percent and 24 percent, respectively, of all fishers and fish farmers.

• If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30 percent. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4 percent, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17 percent.

• Women are reported to constitute 33 percent of the rural aquaculture workforce in China, 42 percent in Indonesia and 80 percent in Viet Nam.

• Data from 35 nationally representative surveys for 20 countries analysed by FAO show that female-headed households are more likely to be poor than male-headed households in some countries but the opposite is true in other countries – so it is not possible to generalize.

• Of the 106 countries committed to MDG 3 on gender parity in access to education, 83 had met the target by 2005.

• For those developing countries for which data are available, between 10 percent and 20 percent of all land holders are women, although this masks significant differences among countries even within the same region.

• Financial institutions in countries such as Brazil, India, Kenya, the Philippines and South Africa have been able to reach rural customers including women at a lower cost by handling transactions through post offices, petrol stations and stores, and many telecommunication service providers allow their customers to make payments or transfer funds.


According to Gender dimensions of agricultural and rural employment: Differentiated pathways out of poverty—Status, trends and gaps, which has been brought out by FAO, IFAD and ILO, please click here to access:


• Unpaid work on family agricultural enterprises accounts for 34 percent of women’s informal employment in India (compared with 11 percent of men’s informal employment) and for an astonishing 85 percent in Egypt (compared with 10 percent for men).

• Agriculture continues to be the main source of rural employment for both women and men in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia. In Latin America, rural female workers appear equally distributed between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors (with self-employment more prevalent in agriculture than in manufacturing and services), while rural men work mostly in agriculture, either as self-employed or wage workers. 

• Gender differences in employment status appear to be more marked in South Asia, where only 13 percent of adult women are self-employed in agriculture compared with 33 percent of men, and less than 6 percent of rural women work in non-agricultural sectors compared with 27 percent of men. It is interesting to note that in South Asia, women appear somewhat equally distributed between wage work and self-employment (13 percent and 12 percent, respectively) within agriculture, whereas most men who work in agriculture are self-employed. Women in South Asia are relatively more engaged in agricultural wage employment than are women in any other region, most likely the result of women’s weaker property rights in land and other assets than in most other regions, coupled with increasing landlessness.

• South Asian women are also more likely to remain unpaid for work on their own family business than in any other region: ILO data for 2007 indicate that 59 percent of the total female labour force in South Asia works as contributing family workers, compared with 36 percent in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, 35 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and only 7 percent in Latin America. The corresponding shares for men are 18 percent in South Asia, 18 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and 4 percent in Latin America.

• Agriculture is a female-intensive activity in both India and Bangladesh and in Bangladesh provides employment to more than 60 percent of the total female labour force (mostly in the form of rice production and poultry rearing). In Sri Lanka, agriculture appears to be less labour- and female-intensive than in the other two South Asian countries.

• In the case of India, the share of the female adult population in both agriculture and non-agriculture work is higher than regional averages, and the share of female casual agricultural labour is especially significant (about 30 percent of the total female rural workforce). Of note, in particular, is the high share of the rural male labour force working in non-agricultural activities relative to the high share of the rural female labour force working in agriculture, suggesting some ‘feminization of agriculture’. Since the 1990s, a number of studies on gender and rural employment have been pointing to the ‘feminization of agriculture’, attributing it partly to the trends described previously. The term ‘feminization of agriculture’ can mean different things and should be used with care. It refers broadly to women’s increasing presence (or visibility) in the agricultural labour force, whether as agricultural wage workers, independent producers or unremunerated family workers. Others use the term to indicate deterioration in the quality of agricultural work.

• Women contribute substantially to total productive work in male-headed households in Zimbabwe (about 40 percent of the total) but not in Ethiopia (where women’s contribution can be less than 10 percent). In Zimbabwe, the vast majority of the work involves own farming (more than 90 percent of total activities), while in Uganda waged work/business constitutes between 26 percent and 29 percent of total work. The share of waged work/business in total employment is highest in Andhra Pradesh, India (more than 50 percent of the total). This could be expected, as Andhra Pradesh is a strong-performing state, classified as in between a ‘transforming’ and ‘urbanized’ economy.

• Farm work is mostly provided by men (except in Zimbabwe, where women are the main contributors), while livestock keeping is almost exclusively a children’s activity in all the African countries. Children, more in general, seem to contribute significantly to household agricultural activities (up to seven hours per day in some regions). The share of paid work done by men relative to other family members is the highest across all African countries, and in particular in Ethiopia. In India, the share of paid work done by women, other relatives and children is higher than elsewhere and than the share done by men. This is a fascinating study, and more research of this kind would allow for more generalized understandings.

• A significant share of women in South Asia work as agricultural labourers but we do not know whether they receive similar wages and benefit from similar entitlements as male agricultural labourers.

• Some of the factors that may push women into a disadvantaged economic position relative to men in terms of the returns to their labour are: (a) employment (occupation and task) segmentation (women are disproportionately employed in low-quality jobs, including jobs in which their rights are not adequately respected and social protection is limited); (b) the gender gap in earnings (partly as a consequence of high segmentation; women earn less for a given type of work than do men – usually for both wage employment and self-employment); and (c) fewer hours of paid work but overall larger work burdens (due to competing demands of care responsibilities and non-market work, women spend less time on average in remunerated work, which lowers their total labour income and is likely to increase stress and fatigue).

• As for the agricultural sectors, there seems to be a common pattern across regions in that women tend to be the main producers of food while men appear to be managing most of the commercial crops, although not without women’s (often unpaid) contributions. Women also participate in commercial farming but within a rather rigid division of tasks. This rigidity in the gender division of tasks appears to be stronger in South Asia than in parts of Africa or Southeast Asia.

• Petty trade is a more prevalent activity for women in Africa, Latin America and some Southeast Asian countries than in South Asia. In South Asia, most female non-agricultural activities are home-based, reflecting prevailing strict norms of women’s seclusion, particularly in parts of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The location of their work (within private homes) makes it more difficult to enforce legislation.

• In Asia, women produce mostly food crops, whereas men tend to diversify into commercial farming. In some countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia, women are involved in cash crops (e.g. cotton in Pakistan, peanut production in the Philippines and Thailand, poppies in Afghanistan) but the gender division of tasks remains marked. Especially in Southeast Asia, women are heavily involved in rice production, where they constitute up to 90 percent of the labour force. In Cambodia and Vietnam, female farmers also take on male tasks (such as land preparation and irrigation) when male labour is not available. In China, differences in the gender division of crops and tasks depend on agro-ecological characteristics, production systems and crop types. Where male outmigration is high, women work on both cash and food crops and perform most farming activities, including use of machinery. They become main decision makers regarding choice of crops, fertilizer use and marketing, but men retain power in public affairs at the community level (e.g. Southwestern Provinces). There are very high shares of unremunerated female family workers and increasing casualization of agricultural labour, both male and female (e.g. India).

• In Afghanistan, regions of India (Kerala and West Bengal) and Uzbekistan, women are engaged in manufacturing (e.g. dress making) and domestic and catering services but NOT in trade. In Sri Lanka, women market local agricultural produce, prepare cooked foods for sale, especially rice and flour-based foods, run small grocery shops and make and sell handicrafts. In Southeast Asia (Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam) women are involved in small trade, particularly of agricultural goods. In China, women participate in light industry. Men are mainly involved in construction, commerce, transportation and services.

• There are many home-based workers in India, and very poor working conditions for women in South Asia (e.g. limited ability to organize, particularly if home-based work; no access to social protection).

• Despite the widespread commitment of many countries to respect and promote the principle of freedom of association, the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of all forms of discrimination in the workplace (including through ratification of a number of ILO Conventions particularly relevant to rural workers such as convention Nos. 11, 111, 129, 138, 141, 182, 184, and others), rural workers – and especially women and children – face both legal impediments and practical challenges in asserting their rights. Also, despite the hazardous nature of the work and the high levels of risk, agriculture is often the least well-covered sector in the economy as far as national occupational safety and health regulations are concerned.

• A recent study by the ILO (Breneman-Pennas and Rueda Catry, 2008) shows that globally, women’s participation in institutions for social dialogue such as labour councils and advisory boards is still limited. By region, the average share of women participants is 35 percent in the Caribbean, 12 percent in Africa and 11 percent in both Asia and Latin America. The same review also finds that the institutions starting to include gender in social dialogue are about 57 percent in Asia, 33 percent in the Caribbean and in Africa, and 25 percent in Latin America (the scope of this inclusion varies considerably). However, the extent to which these institutions specifically represent the interests of rural workers is not indicated.

• There has also been an increase in the number of other more informal organizations promoting the rights of women workers, the best known of which is probably the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India. However, these encouraging initiatives are still limited.

• In the case of India, women who work as daily casual wage earner in agriculture earn 69 percent of the wage earned by men in the same occupation. Women who work as regular wage earner in agriculture earn 79 percent of the wage earned by men in the same occupation. Women who work as casual wage earner in non-agriculture earn 65 percent of the wage earned by men in the same occupation. Women who work as regular wage earner in non-agriculture earn 57 percent of the wage earned by men in the same occupation.

• ILO data show that in 2007 the overall working poverty rate was 58 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 47 percent in South Asia, about 16 percent in Southeast Asia and 7 percent in Latin America. Many rural workers remain poor because they receive low earnings and live and work in precarious conditions, are vulnerable to health and other shocks and have little access to risk-coping mechanisms such as insurance or social assistance; in other words, they only have access to ‘indecent’ work. Poverty can push women into employment – the so-called ‘distress sale of labour’ – often in informal and poorly paid jobs (a vicious circle).

• Evidence from South Asia also shows that rural women from poorer households are more likely to take up paid employment, particularly as wage workers, than women from wealthier families.

• Boserup (1970) distinguished between a ‘male farming system’ and a ‘female farming system’. The ‘male farming system’ was characterized by high incidence of landlessness, high levels of agricultural wage labour, inheritance through male lines and a low presence of women in the fields due to strict norms of female seclusion resulting in women concentrating mainly on tasks within the homestead. The ‘female farming system’ was characterized by family farming, low levels of wage labour, bilateral inheritance practices, communal ownership of land with usufruct rights for female members and high percentages of agricultural female family labourers. Women in this latter system played a major role in food production, had greater freedom of movement and were active in trade and commerce. Patterns similar to those of the ‘male system’ can still be found in the MENA region, in parts of South Asia (especially Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh). and even in some regions of Latin America. Except for Latin America, women in these countries still participate in trading in limited ways. Some characteristics of the ‘female farming system’ can be observed in sub-Saharan Africa but also in many countries of Southeast Asia.

• During the dryer summer months, women participating in a microenterprise project run by the Self-Employed Women’ s Association (SEWA) in Gujarat, India must reduce the time they spend on paid activities because of the need to spend longer hours collecting water. Reducing water collection to one hour a day would enable these women to earn an additional US$100 a year – a significant sum for a poor household. An example of a successful initiative in the area of water infrastructure is provided by SEWA’s water campaign in Gujarat. The project was about improving access to safe and reliable drinking water and involved, among others, training women to repair hand pumps. Women’s collective action was a crucial ingredient of the success. Women were initially reluctant to participate because water infrastructure was regarded as male territory and men were expressing hostility by refusing to drink water from a source built by women or to work on water structures that women managed. SEWA’s district-level functionaries and village women leaders facilitated a process of mobilization through meetings, solidarity group formation and capacity building, and acted as interface between the local women and the water board. As a result, workloads from collecting water were reduced, enabling women to devote more time to remunerated employment or to rest. More reliable and safer water provision also led to a reduction of migration to nearby villages.

• A recent social audit of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in Tamil Nadu, India (Narayanan, 2008) indicates that about 70 percent of the women interviewed had no child care facilities at the worksite despite the provision of the NREGA that ‘in the event that there are at least five children under the age of six at the worksite, one of the female workers should be deputed to look after them and she should be paid the same wage as other NREGA workers’. About 50 percent of the women left their children at home and most of them were being dissuaded from bringing them to work. Women with children older than three years did not seem to face similar difficulties, and a large proportion of them reported sending their children to local child care centres (the ‘anganwadis’) or to school.

• Some innovative projects appear to be available to meet the demand for child care in rural contexts, particularly in India. Mobile Crèches is a voluntary organization that offers child care to women working in the construction sector. It has more than 300 centres and reaches about 200000 children across India. It approaches builders in urban and rural construction sites, with a view to opening a centre there. Those who agree provide basic facilities. SEWA also provides child care and targets groups of migrant workers. For instance, it supports women in a district of West Gujarat where many of the poorest families work in salt extraction. The salt workers have to stay in the proximity of their workplace, near the coastal desert terrains, up to eight months in a year. The children have to follow their parents, with often negative implications for their education and overall development.

• SEWA in India supports an innovative scheme providing about 100 000 women workers, in both urban and rural areas, with health insurance, including a maternity component and life and asset insurance. However, some of SEWA’s poorest members cannot afford the premiums, which have to be set at a rate that ensures financial viability. SEWA in India combines the provision of banking services with the formation of co-operatives to promote women’s economic, social and political interests.

• In India, where growing land scarcity has intensified male competition and created additional constraints to women’s usufruct, trusteeship and ownership rights, women’s access to land seems to have become more constrained. In India, the land question is also crucial because as a result of male out-migration, women remain largely confined to agriculture and they are faced with the prime responsibility for farming, but without rights to the land they cultivate.

• India study (Srivastava and Srivastava, 2009) shows a marked gender disparity in wages in agricultural and non-agricultural employment, as well as significantly lower wages for both men and women casual agricultural labourers compared with non-agricultural labourers. For both casual and regular workers, women receive lower wages than men (i.e. wages between 57 percent and almost 80 percent of men’s wages). women employed as regular workers are less discriminated against in agriculture (where they get 79 percent of the male wage) than in the other non-agriculture sectors (which pay women only 57 percent of the male wage); however, this is not the case when women work as casual labourers. This shows that women who manage to enter the formal agricultural labour market can be better remunerated; their specific competencies are given a value that is not recognized “economically” in non-agricultural work.

• In India, female farmers and agricultural workers lag behind their male counterparts at every level of educational attainment, and are between 20 and 30 percent more likely to be illiterate than males. Lower levels of educational attainment among women contribute to their being unable to compete with men for better and more skilled jobs.

• In May-June 2008, a survey of 1,060 NREGA workers in six Hindi-speaking states of North India was conducted (Khera and Nayak, 2009) to study the impact of the NREGA in the lives of workers. Significant benefits reported by the women include improvement in food security, health benefits and a chance to avoid hazardous work. Women have started earning the minimum wage, which is a big achievement. Further, a majority of women workers reported collecting their wages and keeping it. The availability of local wage employment at the statutory minimum wage for women is a new development associated with the NREGA in many of the areas covered by the survey. However, the participation of women varies widely across the survey regions. Serious problems remain in implementation across states (such as the lack of availability of child care and the continued presence of illegal contractors). Given the critical gains made by women workers – in accessing work and income, food and health care for themselves and their families, and in leaving potentially hazardous work – it is critical that problems in implementation be resolved and not derail the gains.


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