Rural Women, Poverty and Natural Resources: Sustenance, Sustainability and Struggle for Change


Agarwal, Bina. 1989. “Rural Women, Poverty and Natural Resources: Sustenance, Sustainability and Struggle for Change.” Economic and Political Weekly 24 (43): WS46–65.

Author: Bina Agarwal


Women in poor rural households are burdened with a significant responsibility for family subsistence and are important, often the primary, and in many female-headed households the sole economic providers. However, their ability to fulfil this responsibility is significantly constrained by the limited (and declining) resources and means at their command - a constraint that stems not merely from their class position but also from gender. These gender inequities in access to resources take varying forms: intra-family differences in the distribution of basic necessities; women's systematically disadvantaged position in the labour market; their little access to the crucial means of production - land, and associated production technology; and the growing deterioration and privatisation of the country's common property resources on which the poor in general and women in particular, depend in substantial degree for sustenance. At the same time, the women are not always passive victims - many have reacted against their marginalisation and are today significant actors in grassroots initiatives for change. In particular, in response to a growing crisis of survival, poor peasant and tribal women have emerged in the forefront of many ecology initiatives. These initiatives, which have developed into movements in several areas, articulate a growing resistance to existing approaches to development, and call attention to the critical need for an alternative approach which is regenerative rather than destructive of nature - a necessary condition for its sustainability in the long run. Indeed, the perspectives and insights offered by such movements, and women as important participants in them, need to be an integral part of any attempt to chart out an alternative.

Topics: Class, Development, Economies, Economic Inequality, Environment, Extractive Industries, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Health, Households, Livelihoods, Rights, Land Rights, Women's Rights

Year: 1989

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