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Mitigating drudgery for farm women in the mountains through improved tools, technologies, and services

The pace at which technology and innovations are advancing worldwide is remarkable. But how these technologies take into account women’s needs, the nature of women’s work, and contextual settings is quite questionable. It is noticeable that compared with women, men are in a position to take advantage of and accrue higher benefits from technological change across all sectors. In many developing countries, the introduction of efficient and smart technologies seems to have lent little respite to women's physical labour. This is either because technologies and innovations have not catered to women’s particular needs, or because they are inaccessible or unaffordable.

Venue

ICIMOD, Kathmandu

Date & Time

15 November 2019 01 January 1970

Contact

Suman Bisht & Geeta Bhattarai Bastakoti

All this is taking place in a larger context where environmental factors such as climate change and climate-induced disasters, coupled with economic factors such as income and employment, have steered the increase in the outmigration of men in mountainous regions. Consequently, on the one hand, this has opened up women’s opportunities for exposure and wider engagement in the roles that men performed, but it has also compelled women to take on additional tasks besides performing their traditional gender roles. The unpaid roles of women in tasks related to agriculture, water, livestock, food, care, and communal activities are often unaccounted for and invisible. These added roles are strenuous and tedious not only owing to women’s limited access to proper tools, technologies, and services but also because of the limited capacity and knowledge possessed by women to handle these technologies.

Existing outreach and extension services too fail to target and reach women with information and knowledge. As a result, women continue to use labour-intensive tools and technologies, and this practice is further entrenched by social norms that prominently influence women’s access to technologies and their use. Furthermore, masculine and feminine norms associated with gender roles often amplify gender gaps and inequities. To ensure and enhance women’s access to and use of technologies in farming communities, it is necessary that frontier technology is able to address women’s needs, priorities, and preferences. Women-friendly technologies can be very effective in transforming gender relations and reducing inequalities.

Against this backdrop, ICIMOD organized a one-day regional consultation meeting to discuss improving tools, technologies, and services that can mitigate farm women’s drudgery in the mountains.

Objective

The key objectives were:

  1. Identify existing tools, technologies, and services that reduce drudgery for women and increase their work efficiency.
  2. Identify the key stakeholders in the region working in this area.
  3. Understand the barriers and opportunities in introducing customized tools and technologies to meet the needs of female agricultural workers.
  4. Identify the prospective areas and sectors for sustainable interventions, and the possible roles of different stakeholders to ensure that more women-friendly tools, technologies and services are introduced and made accessible for use by women.

The regional consultation was attended by 20 participants from agriculture research organizations; academic institutions; government and non-government organizations; and international organizations based in Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Thailand.

The key outcome from the consultation was an identified need for a knowledge and information sharing platform on appropriate tools, technologies and services in the region and an identified need for clear markers for assessing any tool, technology and service as women-friendly.  (A detailed report is forthcoming.)

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