Rural Women and Irrigation: Patriarchy, Class, and the Modernizing State in South India


Ramamurthy, Priti. 1991. “Rural Women and Irrigation: Patriarchy, Class, and the Modernizing State in South India.” Society and Natural Resources 4 (1): 5-22.

Author: Priti Ramamurthy


Irrigation is the major strategy used by “modernizing” states in India and throughout the Third World to raise agricultural productivity and surpluses. This paper shows that irrigation is not gender-neutral, focusing on how canal irrigation affects women’s work and lives in Andhra Pradesh, India. First, it delineates the particular consequences for women of state-sponsored irrigation. It then focuses on women of different classes and castes and shows how the economic and physical burdens of agricultural intensification have fallen most heavily on women of agricultural labor and marginal cultivator households. It concludes by suggesting policy measures that can meet poor women’s basic livelihood needs and points out that only working class women’s organizations will be able to change to preoccupation of the state with modernization, the inequitable distribution of resources, and the stranglehold of patriarchy.

Keywords: agricultural labor, class, patriarchy, rural women

Topics: Caste, Class, Agriculture, Economies, Economic Inequality, Poverty, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 1991

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