Women farmers working for a fraction of the pay men get

Agricultural services should be equally ensured irrespective of men or women farmers

Bangladesh has reduced poverty and improved living standards significantly in recent years despite the global economic recession and natural calamities. In spite of rising standards of living, some things never seem to change. Men still seem to get a better deal than women. This happens in all walks of life, starting from a multinational corporation to the most remote village farm in Bangladesh.

My name is Farah Maliha. I am a fairly new Activista, since I started out this year. This morning (5th October, 2011), I had the opportunity to interview a woman farmer from a remote village in Tala, Shatkhira (a south-western district of Bangladesh). Her name is Feroza Begum, a 35 year-old widow who lives with her only son. After talking with her, I realized how important each penny is to people who have to earn it from scratch.

Her husband died in 1996, since then she is supporting her son’s education all by herself. She works at the field eight hours daily never taking a single day off. As her earning is on a daily basis, she does not have the perks of a weekend. She told me that, the land where she does her farming of rice crops belongs to a landlord who pays her daily for her hours on the field. She has two more men working in the same field and hours as her, but unfortunately they get 300 taka as opposed to her payment which is 60 taka daily. Feroza begum says that she puts in exactly the same amount of work as the men but her payment is almost two and a half times lower than them.

The local authorities have been informed about the circumstances. But they have denied any help, by stating that a woman has less strength than a man, so she gets according to her input. My question is, there is no way to measure work volume? How would someone know exactly who has worked more? It is just a mere perception.

It has been stated in the constitution of Bangladesh that Women deserve equal rights to Men in respect of Subsidy. But in practice, this does not happen. Feroza Begum points out the issue of ‘Powerful People’. She says that there are local politicians who do not allow the government subsidy to reach women farmers. Women farmers are belittled because they are in a minority.  For single working mothers like her this becomes very hard to support the family. Since Shatkhira is nearby the sea, every year during monsoon her village is flooded to knee level, so they have to migrate to a nearby village for safety.

My house is under water now; I have been living with my sister since a month. When I’ll go back to my village I know that I’ll have to face lot of trouble because of the flood. I’ll have to work twice as hard on the fields and my home, which is underwater now

Feroza said, adding that the months she stays home idly due to flood, brings about more financial crisis with negligent amount of help from the local politicians. She feels all restless sitting home, and I could sense that in her voice.

As my final question, I asked her why she never remarried. She answered, "It was never an option for me. Who will take care of my son if I remarried? What if the man does not accept him? So, I decided to raise him alone by working hard but the world is not making it any easier for me."

Hardworking and honest people like Feroza should get their constitutional rights. They do not deserve to be exploited by the local policymakers, who exercise their wrong authorial power. There must be something we can do to change the system. There must be a more transparent way of making these subsidy reach to the women who need and deserve it rightfully.