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Women in agriculture are more prone to malnutrition than male workers : IIM Ahmedabad study

New Delhi, July 4: A recent study by IIM Ahmedabad has said that women in the farming community are prone to reduced nutritional intake because of time constraint managing both agricultural and household activities.

The study sought to highlight the fact that during peak seasons, women’s time “trade-offs” were negatively associated with the intake of calories, proteins, iron, zinc and vitamin A.

The study covered 960 women in rural Maharashtra over a 10 month period, highlighting the need to recognise the significance of time for a women engaged in agriculture activities. This is presumed to be a first study of its kind in the country, linking agriculture and nutritional impact on women working in the fields.

According to estimates, women comprise 33 per cent of total labour force employed in the agriculture sector. However the level of empowerment enjoyed by them is negligible. Needless to say, they have been victims of discrimination, disproportionately bearing the work burden and paid less.

“…women spend more than 300 min daily on cooking and other domestic work-related activities, such as cleaning the house, washing utensils, clothes, etc. In peak seasons of sowing, transplanting, and harvesting, women’s extra hours in agriculture translate to reduced food preparation time. These findings suggest that women’s engagement in agriculture is high and similar to men’s. Yet, there is no subsequent reduction in the domestic activities for women during peak seasons. Time pressures in agriculture are also associated with less time for sleep, and rest-related activities, impacting women’s overall health,” the IIM study said.

Therefore increased time constraint for women across season is possibly leading to reduced intake of calories, protein, fats, iron, zinc and vitamin A, it added. Time constraint is more binding on women who own no land.

The outcome of the study, though limited to the Chandrapura district of Maharashtra, holds significance in equal measure, reflecting their plight across the farm communities given the alike socio-economy pattern from state to state.

The level of education and awareness might have a role in the conditions women find themselves in, the study suggestively implied. For example, it illustrated the fact that women tend to ignore food groups and rather focus in terms of recipes and miscalculate the time to take to prepare a food.

The solution lies in policy interventions. One of the ways to get the women out of this mess is to promote labour saving technologies, acknowledge the importance of women’s empowerment, removing wage discrimination, the study said, emphasising on reorienting public policy that seeks to address these issues.

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