Indian women remain underrepresented in the farming profession and have been subject to mounting labour demands. The rural life of a woman can easily be described as one that shuffles between inside and outside the house. Her work within the household is restricted to the traditionally set responsibilities of housekeeping and childcare. Her efforts outside the home, ranging from agricultural assistance to fodder and husbandry responsibilities, remains under a veil. At many times, fulfilling the basic needs of household members for food, water, and fuel takes them far beyond the house's geographical perimeter, into the village and surrounding countryside. Their challenging existence not only supports their families but also farming in a rural economy. Thus, their silent and salient contribution is brought to the limelight on days like International Women's Day.
Good Farming – Good Food, along with Solidaridad and its stakeholders' support, celebrates Women's Day every year. The celebration is stretched throughout the first week of March, where women from the farming community of Madhya Pradesh, through the workshops, exhibitions, and training, receive an opportunity to grow and improve professionally.
During the 2021 Women's Week celebration, the activities and sessions highlighted the importance of- "Women in Leadership". Themed accordingly, the activities and session planned for the farming community of Madhya Pradesh brought in light the achievements of women in farming; along with addressing topics like- women as entrepreneurs, microfinancing, health and nutrition for the rural community, Government schemes for the women in rural communities, women-friendly agricultural technologies, etc.
Similar activities were carried out throughout the five districts of Madhya Pradesh – Agar Malwa, Ujjain, Bhopal, Sehore and Dewas
These activities also allow the marginalised group of young women to participate in IWD and to receive a chance to learn, express and resolute to equal standing in society. Another perceived benefit that accompanies the celebration is that women get to move from their usual settings and mix with other women from all walks of life.
Apart from learning the technical aspects of farming, participants also improved their nutritional awareness. The educative sessions held under the guidance of a well-trained and qualified Nutrition Department of Good Farming – Good Food programme, touched in detail the essential topics like- dietary efficacy through soybean, preparation of nutritious dishes with beneficial vegetables, the importance of a healthy dietary regime, etc. The participants were also told about various processed and semi-processed items that are prepared by using soy.
This week-long celebration provided the participants with a positive experience involving greater social confidence and opportunities for indulging in a leadership role by becoming entrepreneurs. Experts from the Indian Institute of Soybean Research and ICAR accompanied the training to tell the women participants about preparing processed and semi-processed items prepared from Soybeans. Products like Soy milk, Soya Chunks, and Soy Paneer (Tofu) are a perfect protein source and in high demand throughout the markets.
As an outcome of this event, many participating women have agreed to work and improve their leadership role by actively engaging in entrepreneurial activities even within rural society's structural and social constraints.
As Good Farming – Good Food sought to use an innovative approach to circumvent these pitfalls, it respectfully acknowledges everyone's contribution in rural society. Therefore, some of the training also gave information about how Farmer Producer Organisations can help unlock smallholders' efforts and facilitate growth in their community. A Farmer Producer Organisation, made by and for the women farmers with the help and support from Solidaridad, also celebrated IWD with great enthusiasm. Rakshika FPO aims to build and strengthen women's role in agriculture by bringing them together as one.
The event was a success, both in terms of its modest aims and, most importantly, as evaluated by the participants themselves. Those interviewed expressed greater feelings of optimism and belonging to the farming profession.
It is safe to say that, overall, the project provided participants with a nurturing and enriching experience, creating the potential for a lasting change that matters.