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Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan: Women with farming future by Caroline Rath July 27,2020   |  Source: Sri Lanka Guardian

South Asia’s record on gender equality is quite depressing, to say the least. The region has the world’s highest rate of child marriage, and domestic violence against women is pervasive. Women are over-represented in unpaid work, and under-represented in the labour force, even in countries, such as Sri Lanka, which has invested heavily in girls’ schooling. Yet, there is one sector where women are taking over — agriculture — that could present a much needed opportunity for women economic empowerment.

As South Asian economies develop, men are increasingly chasing jobs in manufacturing (or overseas), leaving women responsible for a growing share of agricultural labour. In Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, the share of economically active women working in farming now ranges from 60 percent to 98 percent. In each of these countries’ agricultural sectors, women outnumber men. A comparable shift occurred in some high-income countries during the Second World War. As men left for the battlefield, women filled the vacant civilian jobs, including farming. In America, for example, the share of women agricultural workers jumped from 8 percent in 1940 to 22.4 percent in 1945.

When the war ended, women were not simply going to return to the pre-war status quo.

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