Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Issues and strategies
 Dimensions of rural women's...
 Dissemination of findings
 Action to assist rural women through...
 Access to and control over...
 Publications and papers from the...
 Back Cover

Group Title: Women workers in rural development : a programme of the ILO
Title: Women workers in rural development
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00086603/00001
 Material Information
Title: Women workers in rural development a programme of the ILO
Physical Description: 47 p. : ; 30 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Ahmad, Zubeida M
Loutfi, Martha Fetherolf
International Labour Office
Publisher: International Labour Office
Place of Publication: Geneva
Publication Date: c1985
Edition: Rev. ed.
Subject: Women in rural development   ( lcsh )
Rural development   ( lcsh )
WOMEN WORKERS   ( unbist )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 43-47.
Statement of Responsibility: Zubeida M. Ahmad and Martha F. Loutfi.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00086603
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 16995027
isbn - 9221039498

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents 1
        Table of Contents 2
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
    Issues and strategies
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    Dimensions of rural women's work
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
    Dissemination of findings
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
    Action to assist rural women through their organizations
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
    Access to and control over resources
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
    Publications and papers from the ILO programme on rural women
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
    Back Cover
        Page 48
Full Text

txie Wo

c~.E~E?' e



A programme of the ILO

Zubeida M. Ahmad
Martha F. Loutfi


Copyright International Labour Organisation 1985
Publications of the International Labour Office enjoy copyright under Protocol 2 of the Universal Copyright
Convention. Nevertheless, short excerpts from them may be reproduced without authorisation, on condition that the
source is indicated. For rights of reproduction or translation, application should be made to the Publications Branch
(Rights and Permissions), International Labour Office, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland. The International Labour
Office welcomes such applications.

ISBN 92-2-103949-8

First published 1981
Revised edition 1985

The designations employed in ILO publications, which are in conformity with United Nations practice, and the
presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the International
Labour Office concerning the legal status of any country or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation
of its frontiers.
The responsibility for opinions expressed in signed articles, studies and other contributions rests solely with their
authors, and publication does not constitute an endorsement by the International Labour Office of the opinions
expressed in them.
ILO publications can be obtained through major booksellers or ILO local offices in many countries, or direct from ILO
Publications, International Labour Office, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland. A catalogue or list of new publications will
be sent free of charge from the above address.

Printed by the International Labour Office, Geneva, Switzerland




Perspective and Context 4
Participation and Organisation 6


Sexual Division of Labour 9

Agricultural Labour 10
Home-based Producers 12
Migration and Female-headed Households 14
Plantation Labour 16




Women, Land and Agricultural Production 36
Rural Energy 39

VII. List of publications 43


The Programme on Rural Women within the Rural Employment Policies Branch
evolved in recognition of the need for documenting and analysing the
particular problems and concerns of poor rural women, in order to understand
their roles as workers and to lay a foundation for more constructive technical
cooperation. The Programme is oriented toward sustainable self-reliant
livelihood for rural women workers, in which the importance of their
organisational base has naturally emerged both from research and technical
co-operation. Participation is seen as both an end and a means for the people
to achieve goals they set for themselves.
The focus on poor rural women's participation through organisation does
not mean isolating women's interests from those of men. But it is based on a
recognition that in addition to shared interests of a class, there are
particular interests of women which should not be ignored, yet which are often
submerged and even harmed in the name of common cause. As has been
demonstrated historically, one does not resolve all of women's problems by
class action. And, one is not doing justice to the interests of the poor when
pretending that there are no contradictions among them.
The ILO has a long standing commitment to improving the welfare and
employment conditions of the working population. A poverty-focused approach
to development was defined by the ILO's World Employment Conference in 1976.
And further prominence has been given by the ILO to achieving equality of
opportunity and treatment for women workers since 1975.
There has been a tremendous increase in knowledge and understanding in
the past decade on the nature of rural women's work and its role in the
structure of rural societies as well as on methodological questions; the
research supported by this Programme has contributed to that progress.
Specific case studies have been carried out on women workers in subsistence
agriculture and wage labour in Colombia, Peru, India, Bangladesh, China and
Nigeria among others. The extent of productive work of some secluded women in
India, Bangladesh and Nigeria has been documented. The effect on women of
agricultural modernisation including the Green Revolution has been studied in
Asia and Africa. The impact of land reform on women has been researched in
Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast, India and Peru. The special situation of women
plantation workers in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Latin America and the Caribbean has
been analysed. The stresses on women and poor families that arise from
growing fuel scarcity are being investigated in Peru, Ghana, Mozambique,

- 2 -

India, Indonesia and Nepal. The growing phenomenon of separate male or female
migration and the problem it creates for rural women has been documented in
many societies
And a substantial volume of documentation has been accumulated on nearly
50 initiatives which have been "successful" in some important respects in
improving the employment conditions of rural women in Africa, Asia and the
Pacific. The findings have been discussed at interregional meetings among
government, worker and employer representatives, NGOs and local level
activists, with a view to encouraging more relevant initiatives and policies.
These and many other case studies have contributed to a much clearer
understanding of the problems and priorities of poor rural women, which in
turn have led to the development of innovative, experimental technical
co-operation projects in support of remunerative employment for rural women
through their organisation. Increasingly, research priorities are being
affected by the interactions at the grass-root level, so that no really clear
distinction can be made between research and action.
This Programme in support of rural women has been made possible by a
happy blend of financial support from a number of donors for research,
dissemination and technical cooperation. To date, Denmark, Finland, the
Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden (SAREC) have
all contributed to the activities of this Programme, along with the regular
budget of the ILO.
The interaction between research and technical co-operation has been
critically important to the accomplishments of the Programme. Past research
has served to identify priorities for action, and some participatory research
has inherently involved action. Research has given documentary evidence to
trade unions, development workers, planners and others to assist them in
seeking ameliorative changes. Funds received for assistance projects have
enabled the collecting of relevant information as well, and some publications
are expected to emerge from these field projects. Meanwhile, feedback from
technical co-operation and field work is affecting the priorities of the
Programme. The number of requests for studies and publications produced under
the Programme has been rapidly increasing, partly because of the dissemination
of findings through workshops and seminars. This high degree of
inter-dependence between research, meetings and technical cooperation is a
basic characteristic of the Programme, which depends on the continued
willingness of donors to support all these dimensions.
In this Report, we offer a review of some of the broader issues and
lessons which have emerged,and then a brief survey of some of the key research

3 -

findings. Then we outline the various ways in which the Programme attempts to
disseminate its findings and interact with researchers, policy makers,

Government, Workers' and Employers' representatives, and NGO's. We outline
our technical co-operation activities and expected directions of future work.
The important question of access to and control over resources is

highlighted. Finally, a list of publications and papers is appended.



Perspective and Context
Growth with equity and participation is the overall development
objective, granted that it requires different specific policies to take
account of diversity. It is necessary to start where people are. This
provides a context for specifying an approach to involving and supporting
women, helping to make "integrated" organizations and projects more equally
shared and assisting separate ones to gradually achieve equitable
integration. While the existing world economy provides important constraints,
within that framework it is possible to focus more on the development of local
capacity, making better use of local resources and skills, to meet local
needs. In some cases it may require a combination of de-mystification and
innovative approaches. For example, management techniques are often seen as
being inherently scientific; yet illiterate women typically do manage a great
many diverse things; the need is to help them see what managing they do and
how it can be transferred into other areas.
In order to achieve growth with equity it is necessary specifically to
target the rural poor and women among them. Women workers should be seen as
the core of a rural development strategy, given their key roles as producers
and deliverers of basic needs. Sustained improvement in the health and
well-being of poor families in rural areas is inconceivable without the active
participation of women. Further, in many societies the organizations and
networks among people that can form the essential basis for obtaining
resources, credit, technologies and market access, are sex-specific. So the
case for a special effort to encourage and assist initiatives among poor women
and their organizations as well as to focus the flow of outside resources
toward them should be self evident (Loutfi, 1983b).
The focus on income and employment is as a means for meeting basic
needs, particularly in a world where cash needs of the rural poor are rising
with commercial development. Yet income for women is not enough: increasing
income without assuring women's control of their own labour and income can
simply lead to greater control of them by others, or extended use of women as
a resource for others' ends. From past experience one can expect that many
decisions will be different if taken by women in place of men, including
decisions on resource use and household expenditure (e.g. it has been found
that poor women are more likely than poor men to spend income they control on
items contributing to overall family welfare).

- 5-

Aside from concern with inequality, discrimination and the status of
women, why should development planners or others concern themselves about the
problems faced by rural women? While on the one hand, rural development
policies and strategies demand a great deal from women in production, in
family care on the other hand, women are not given access to the resources
and decisions which would enable them to perform these roles adequately in
terms of the national targets. Further, the overall data on women's
participation in agriculture understates the importance of their work in
producing food, which, in addition to being basic to family welfare, is often
a very important national objective. And in addition, almost all countries
include an anti-poverty element in their strategies, and among the rural poor,
women's production and earnings constitute a particularly large share of the
total household income. And further yet, it has been shown that income
controlled by women is more likely to be spent on their families' basic needs
than is that controlled by men. So, ignoring or by-passing women's access to
and control over resources threatens the very developmental targets set by
most countries. Evidently, one does not have to be sympathetic to women to be
seriously concerned about their plight.
The surprise really is that this issue has not received more serious
attention than it has. For an explanation, one would have to probe deeply
into the history of discrimination and the pattern of interests it has
served. But one modern stereotype has served to mask the need for change: the
(male) bread-winner/(female) housewife model. Among the rural poor in most
countries it is quite ridiculous to presume a male head of household who
provides for the family's needs and a dependent wife who looks after the
house, the children, the elderly and the sick. Yet this (urban middle class)
model underlies the approach that has generally been taken to assisting women
in developing countries. It is therefore no wonder that progress for those in
rural areas has been so limited, when women whose primary activities are
agricultural field work, animal raising, dairying, home-based production, etc.
are taught unmarketable embroidering or nutrition even using ingredients they
cannot afford. "Income-generating projects" can also have these pitfalls.
Typical characteristics of income-generating projects for women include:
supporting or initiating activities which are not (and never will be)
economically viable consistent with a decent return to labour; short-term,
small-scale and involving few resources and even less technology or skills
acquisition; activities and products which are marginal or irrelevant to rural
needs and are outside the "mainstream" of development, not touching rural
women's basic roles in agriculture, animal husbandry, etc.; planned from above

- 6 -

without participation and thus not based on women's own perceptions, needs and
skills; and marketing and management aspects, that might provide some control,
are generally ignored. There is a tendency to say that these are just bad
income-generating projects. However, the fact that they tend to happen mostly
to women points to something more fundamental. One can hypothesis that the
cause might be either a weak commitment to improving the condition and status
of women or even the desire to create an illusion of support without
addressing the fundamental areas where change is necessary in distribution
of resources and in the family.
One wants to see recognition of the work that women actually do, and
support for raising its productivity while increasing women's access to and
control over resources and income all in the name of sound developmental
policy: a reduction in discrimination against women and a rise in their status
would naturally follow, being a desirable side-effect, through a more
equitable distribution of resources between income groups, the sexes, and
within the family.
While the realisation of this need is growing among planners and others
with influence, the really fundamental changes depend ultimately on the women
themselves. Examples are emerging of women workers in many areas of the third
world organising themselves around common issues, gaining in consciousness of
their power and obtaining more respect for their legitimate interests.

Participation and Organisation
The World Employment Conference in 1976 underscored the "participation
of the people in making the decisions which affect them through organizations
of their own choice". It recommended in particular that "the main thrust of a
basic needs strategy must be to ensure that there is effective mass
participation of the rural population in the political process in order to
safeguard their interests". In fact, the Conference noted that effective
poverty alleviation and satisfaction of basic needs in developing countries
implied measures of redistributive justice aimed at increasing the access of
lowest income groups to productive resources. Such measures needed to be
backed by organizations of rural workers.
These concerns, linking basic needs' satisfaction to organisation and
participation, continue to inspire and guide the work of the Programme on
Rural Women. It has strived to disseminate this approach by working with and
supporting workers' organizations among women as well as in seminars,
workshops and technical co-operation projects while documenting the concrete
issues in different regions and countries in close collaboration with local

- 7 -

research institutions, women workers' organizations, activists, and rural
women themselves.
For many poor rural women, the need for increased participation of the
rural poor in development has taken on a new significance. Some poor rural
women have resolved to participate together in building a collective will and
strength to change their lives. Women in rural areas want more adequate
income and employment opportunities, more access to productive resources such
as land, more access to health and other government services, education for
their children, more representation in trade unions and other decision-making
bodies. They want above all to put an end to the abuse, discrimination and
constraints they are too often subjected to, at work and in their homes
(Ahmad, 1983).
Various innovative development initiatives with which the ILO is
associated, e.g. in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, the Philippines and Senegal have
stimulated through grass-roots discussion and awareness-raising workshops the
women's resolve to organise themselves. Poor rural women are encouraged to
organise to collectively discuss their common problems, to voice their
concerns and needs, to negotiate with government officials and employers, to
undertake employment and income-earning activities. Women workers' societies,
landless women's organizations and poor women's groups are springing up in
parts of the Third World to stand for women's right to take development into
their own hands and to fight together for better lives. The confidence these
women are finding in their joint deliberations and initiatives has enabled
them to brave many cultural and social inhibitions and to publicly assert
themselves. For example, in India, West Bengal, various "Gramin Mahila Sramik
Unnayan Samities" (or "village-level rural women workers' development
organizations") have been formed through the catalytic intervention of an NGO
assisted by the ILO. The women have been quick in using their collective
power to discuss development issues such as employment and income-earning
opportunities, access to land, to credit facilities, health and education
problems, discrimination against women, etc. from their point of view with
local and national officials. The development of wasteland through rural
women's organizations is being given particular consideration. The success of
this approach has convinced the State Government of West Bengal to encourage
the development of poor rural women's organizations as a means to enhance
their status and channel resources to them as a means of achieving development
Notwithstanding these encouraging examples which could show the way for
millions of rural women towards more self-reliance, the obstacles women face

8 -

in organising themselves are tremendous, in their homes, from their male
counterparts, from the little time they have at their disposal, from
illiteracy, shyness, legal constraints, cultural prejudices and practices
constraining their mobility. Despite these formidable obstacles, it has now
been shown that through group action women can make a most vital contribution
to development and developing societies. Increased efforts and assistance are
required to enable rural women to learn from each other and to achieve
solidarity and collective strength, so that they can ally themselves with
their menfolk from a position of equality instead of dependency.

-9 -


Sexual Division of Labour
Poor women in rural areas are almost invariably working hard, at a
variety of tasks, with little right to leisure or relaxation. The data base
on women's work is gradually improving, although hardly reliable. Women's
work is still grossly underestimated, especially in areas with a low degree of
commercialization. Many societies seem reluctant to admit that women are
indeed working (Benerfa, 1982). While contributing to improved data, the
particular focus of this Programme is on complementary in-depth analysis with
the women themselves, to better understand and support them in their
socio-economic-political context, along with investigations into the larger
processes underlying the patterns of labour allocation
One of the most basic insights resulting from research is the
differentiation of rural women. Far from being a homogeneous category, there
may be even greater economic distinctions among women than among men of
different classes in rural areas (as well-off women may be able to withdraw
completely from work). And poor women suffer disproportionately with
pauperisation and expanding landlessness. It is commonly presumed that where
the household obtains a measured improvement, the individuals also gain, even
if unequally. But it appears that, at least in the case of Africa, women may
be rendered worse off even when "the household" seems to gain (Agarwal, 1981).
The under- (and variable) estimation of rural women's work has serious
implications for human resource planning and for overall development. The
nature of the problem, and factors underlying the failure to adequately
measure women's work, are analysed in some ILO studies (eg Beneria, 1978).
The persistent image of women as housewives has contributed to the failure of
rural development programmes which are thus encouraged to ignore those who do
a great deal of the agricultural work (eg Akande, 1981).
In households with both male and female adult members, women's unpaid
domestic labour affects the terms and conditions on which other household
members can offer their labour for sale (typically by lowering the wage level
below that needed to sustain the household). Women's cash earnings can also
affect men's participation in the labour process, for instance by allowing
them temporarily to withhold their labour. For households without adult male
income-earners, the terms on which women engage in the labour process are
affected, particularly as a result of their sometimes desperate need for
cash. Therefore, an examination of the labour process, in specific as well as
theoretical terms, requires consideration of the sexual division of labour and

- 10 -

the nature of the household, as well as the processes of accumulation.
Inter-household social and economic differentiation must be seen and examined
in the light of intra-household inequalitites in the control over income,
labour and other resources.
There appears often to be an impression that once women are integrated
into modern wage labour, a process of emancipation is generated: i.e. they are
removed from feudal exploitation; that opportunities surface for their
acquiring greater skill training; and that there is a basis for them to
collectively organise and struggle for their rights. Yet integration into
wage labour may in fact accentuate the subordination of -women, while
facilitating the accumulation of capital by others. For example, a study of
some modern wage workers in Singapore revealed women migrants being used as a
semi-skilled urban workforce concentrated in low-skill industries, often with
high accident rates, which pay very low or subsistence wages and are highly
susceptible to fluctuations in the international economy, instead of the
emergence of a stable female workforce integrated into a system which allows
for an improvement of their position (Heyzer-Fan, 1982). Similarly, a study
of women workers in the semi-conductor industry in Southeast Asia shows an
industry which, while seeming to offer a degree of liberation for young women,
nevertheless harms their eyesight and offers them no future (Eisold, 1984).
In China, the female labour force has greatly increased in the past 25
years, as women's participation in agricultural work and in many non-farm
activities has been strongly encouraged, both to increase production and to
combat discriminatory practices and prejudices (Croll, 1979). A new dimension
for women is emerging with the recent shift toward reliance on the family as a
unit of production in the spread of rural responsibility systems and domestic
side-lines: While promising more rapid economic growth, women's status and
autonomy as workers may suffer (Croll, 1984).

Agricultural Labour
Some ILO-sponsored research has revealed how the changing sexual
division of labour in agriculture may involve the displacement of women or the
creation of new employment opportunities generally under highly discriminatory
conditions, sometimes in commodity production for export.
A comparative study of village women in Colombia and Peru has revealed
the differential impact of changing agrarian relations on the sexual division
of labour by class, which is a critical element explaining the different
activities and opportunities which are open to different groups of rural
women. While Andean peasant women's compensation is less than men's, their

- 11 -

working day is very long, contrary to census data which show (incorrectly) a
substantial decline in rural women's economic activity, women's work being
seriously under-enumerated. While agriculture in this region has been
characterized as a "male farming system", it is not clear that men even
perform the greater part of the work. It would therefore be more accurate to
consider the Andes as representing a family farming system with women carrying
a substantial burden of agricultural work (Deere and Leon de Leal, 1982).
In Brazil, women living in rural slums take on temporary wage work,
mainly harvesting, on estates growing crops (cotton, oranges, lemons, coffee)
for export. A majority of these women have sole responsibility for the
survival of their families, with male members of the household away for most
of the year. Because they are "temporarily" working, these women are not
covered by collective and other work agreements and regulations. They are
reported to suffer from poor working conditions, and are especially prone to
diseases emanating from the heavy use of pesticides. The only redeeming
feature is that they have constituted themselves into traditional groups which
provide a certain minimum amount of collective solidarity, although no attempt
so far has been made to utilise this group solidarity to obtain better terms
of work from employers (Aparecida de Fonseca, 1981).
Various studies which have directly or indirectly considered the impact
of the Green Revolution have revealed the special burden on female household
members among the poor. High-yielding crop varieties, with their heavy
requirements of complementary inputs of fertilizer and water, when introduced
in areas of substantially unequal land distribution, have contributed to even
greater differentiation and pauperisation. Women in the impoverished
households face special strains. The unwitting effect of the Green Revolution
appears to have been to increase inequality between different sections of the
population and among men and women, the dimensions of which are still only
partially understood either by development planners or researchers (Sen, 1982;
and Kelkar, 1981).
Overall, employment opportunities for rural women may be shrinking in
many areas, but at least in some countries, like India, women are increasingly
drawn into agricultural wage labour. The process of agricultural development
in India has tended to destroy traditional male jobs and to draw more women
into agricultural wage labour, as they attempt to ensure the survival of their
families (Chatterji, 1984). Feudal and patriarchal modes nevertheless persist
or even strengthen, as the relations of production are not actually
transformed. Participatory research among women agricultural wage labourers
in three villages of Andra Pradesh revealed the impact of class, caste and the

- 12 -

sexual division of labour on poor women, and showed how a dairy development
scheme seemed to promote rather than halt pauperisation while increasing
women's agricultural work (Mies, 1984).

Home-based Producers
Because of domestic, family responsibilities and cultural constraints,
it is unrealistic to expect the imminent disappearance of the need felt by
many rural women to remain at home while earning income. Utilisation of their
labour in what can be called the putting-out system occurs, however, under
largely unregulated conditions and on terms which are often extremely
disadvantageous to the workers. The process of labour control (and
exploitation) is greatly facilitated by the workers' isolation and atomisation
as well as the minimal commitment of capital on the part of the
employers/traders/exporters. This highly discrete labour force where labour
and capital are invisible, especially to each other, leaves the women with
practically no bargaining power. The extension of the "housewife" ideology
from richer to poorer classes has further contributed to a mystification of
this labour process. The workers in home-based industries seem often to be
quite unaware of the integral role they play in industrial and export
strategies. They often conceive themselves not as workers but as petty
commodity producers or, just for reasons of status, pursuing a leisure
activity, even though a 7-8 hour work day may be involved. Therefore, for
their benefit it is necessary to illuminate the kind of process (and often
development strategy) in which they are incorporated.
Studies already carried out by the ILO programme in different parts of
India illustrate how easily women facing these constraints can be exploited
(Bhatty, 1981; and Mies, 1982). The myth that secluded rural women do not
work is shattered by research findings. Many of them work at home on a
contract basis under a putting-out system. Studies have revealed the extent
of production and technical skills possessed by supposedly idle secluded poor
women belonging to different cultural traditions (including Hindus, Christians
and Moslems) in India, Bangladesh and Nigeria. These women produce beedis
(popular local cigarettes) and lace, and process agricultural commodities,
making a substantial contribution to the income of poor families. In
Bangladesh secluded purdah women perform extensive productive work behind
their compound walls. Some of their work, e.g. seed selection, processing and
storing, requires a high level of expertise developed over long years of
experience (Abdullah and Zeidenstein, 1982). In Muslim Hausa in Nigeria,

- 13 -

where women are secluded and prevented from taking outside employment, they
nevertheless generate substantial income for themselves and their families
through the processing and sale of food items, frequently sold with the
assistance of young children. A woman's profit per hour, although much less
than that of a man, is roughly comparable to what a woman might earn from
working in the fields (Longhurst, 1982). Where secluded women labour on a
contract basis for outside agents, their situation is particularly tenuous and
terms of work particularly onerous. And the most effective means of improving
their lot organisation is greatly inhibited by their atomisation and
In Narsapur district in Andra Pradesh, India, a Green Revolution area
with considerable inequality in land holdings and income, desperately poor
now-landless Christian and Hindu families attempt to retain some minimal
status by secluding their women, who form an easily exploited labour force
producing lace for the world market in exchange for about one-fifth of the
official minimum daily wage rate for women. A substantial industry,
accounting for as much as 90 per cent of the handicraft export earnings of
Andra Pradesh, is based on invisible women producers working at home. These
women are linked to Western women who buy the lace through an extensive
network of non-producing male agents, traders and exporters. Here, class
polarisation is accompanied by a growing inequality between men and women
(Mies, 1982). Some notable gains have been achieved, however, as about 2000
lace-makers are now organised in cooperatives (through the effort of the
National Union of Working Women), and their income has increased several times
as a result.
Additional in-depth case studies are being undertaken in Pakistan, India
and Turkey in order to develop concrete information on the working conditions
of home-based women workers and on the organisation of such industries,

further extending the generation of original data and analysis to other
countries and the production of other products. The study in Turkey is
documenting rural women engaged in the commercial hand woven carpet production
and working under the putting-out system as well as cooperatives and small
factories. Another study in Pakistan (Sind Province) seeks to investigate
rural women's employment patterns and conditions in home-based artisanal and
handicraft production operating under the putting out system. An interesting
comparison is emerging from a study in India on women electronics workers in
the State of Kerala: rural assembly co-operatives are linked to the
electronics industry, where, although there is a subcontracting system, the
rural women workers are not home-based.

- 14 -

In addition, a general review of existing international instruments,
national laws and regulations relevant to the situation of domestic
out-workers has been initiated and the eventual appropriateness of other ILO
conventions and recommendations will be considered. The experience of such
countries as Italy and the United Kingdom in dealing with invisible producers
in the "submerged economy" could prove valuable. It is difficult to develop
instruments, laws and regulations to effectively protect domestic out-workers
(or home-based producers) but there may be scope for amelioration,
particularly where governments are simply unaware of the plight of such
workers. And trade unions can organise them as has happened among the lace
makers in India when the National Union of Working Women was made aware of
their exploitation through the dissemination of the ILO's research findings.

Migration and Female-headed Households
Migration of workers has long been associated with the process of
economic growth premised on mobility of both labour and capital. It is a
common feature of most developing countries today and a cause of far-reaching
social change. The special strains and hardships of migrant workers have been
given due consideration in several ILO standards seeking to protect these
particularly vulnerable workers. There has been research on migratory
processes, trends and policies, including rural-to-urban migration. But there
are other aspects of migration which deserve close attention such as circular
migration, short-term movement, and the sexual and age selectivity of
migratory patterns.
Studies on women workers in labour-intensive industries in Southeast
Asia and in the massage parlours of Bangkok highlight some of the forces which
lead to the rural-urban migration of women, placing their problems in the
context of household survival strategies and the broader questions of rural,
national and international structures and policies. An ILO study considers
the nature and evolution of the masseuse/prostitution trade in Bangkok. The
girls, who come from depressed rural areas, continue to maintain strong links
with their natal families and send remittances which substantially contribute
to meeting basic needs of families in a rural economy coming under increasing
strain (Phongpaichit, 1982).
A similar pressure on young women to migrate in search of cash
employment exists in the mountainous area of Oaxaca in Mexico. With decreased
domestic manufacturing and lack of employment opportunities on the farm, girls
have become doubly redundant in village households. At the same time
employment as servants in the city is readily available. Many of the girls in

- 15 -

fact save their wages and send regular payments back, or if this is not
possible, at least send money, clothing or medicine in cases of family crisis
(Young, 1982).

Women from poor households are sometimes forced into considerable
travel, e.g. involving petty trading, as a survival strategy. They face
particularly long work days, often starting well before dawn; they have access
to very little institutional support and often face considerable harassment.
(Peluso, 1981; and Nene, 1981). Such women seldom constitute exploitative
middlemen, and more commonly operate on very small margins as they obtain
inputs or provide markets for their own and others' production.
Production for export whether commodities such as tomatoes and
strawberries in Mexico or flowers in Colombia, or modern products such as
electronics often depends on the use of young, unorganised, cheap female
labour. ILO studies reveal that producers in the export sector are able to
pay low wages to female workers, since they generally employ young women with
limited family responsibilities, often insecure migrants instead of older men
and women with families to support. This is illustrated by a case study of
the strawberry industry in Zamora, Mexico, where mainly young girls are
employed, with no prospects for advancement no promotions and little skill
acquisition (Arizpe and Aranda, 1981).
Where there is a high level of separate male migration, women occupy a
central position vis-a-vis the survival of many rural families. In Ghana for
example, where almost half the households are now female-headed, women
shoulder a major part of rural subsistence responsibilities, yet they are
forced to function under traditional patriarchal structures which discriminate
against them in respect of access to land, capital and other resources (Bukh,
The migration of men from Pakistani villages to the Middle East has
affected the economic and social structure of these villages and the situation
of women. Often debts are incurred to finance the migration, but once these
are repaid, the families receiving remittances tend to gain at the expense of
others. However, the women left behind by migrants may end up by having even
less control over household expenditures than before, since, being illiterate,
they cannot manage bank accounts to which the transfers are made, and more
distant male relatives may control the allocation (Shaheed, 1981).
Remittances do not necessarily offset added strains on rural women striving to
make up for absent male labour.
The stereotype joint or nuclear family, in which women are protected, is
a dangerous myth. Near relatives may be too poor to sustain a widow or a

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divorced abandoned or unmarried woman, as tradition normally dictates, and she
is therefore forced to set up a separate household, dependent on her own
labour. Amongst the poor, the joint family system no longer functions
adequately as a form of social security or traditional "safety net" (if indeed
it ever did), and public support systems in the rural areas of most low income
countries are lacking.
Not only does "the household" assume many forms; changes in it may be an
integral part of the process of development, and they are frequently changes
which work to the detriment of women. An illustration of this process,

whereby women's condition deteriorates and insecurity increases as a result of
modernisation can be found in Morocco (Mernissi, 1981).
Growing poverty can be in this sense a cause of the increasing
phenomenon of female-headed households. A recent study attempts to ascertain
the prevalence and characteristics of female-headed households among the poor
in rural areas (Youssef and Hetler, 1984). While the conceptual and
methodological obstacles are numerous, data derived from available sources
still show a substantial and increasing incidence of female-headed households
in rural areas of developing countries.
The incidence of rural women-headed households is a good indication of
changing family patterns in the development process, related not only to
economic growth and male out-migration, but also to wars, refugee movements
and more generally to poverty and increasing economic marginalisation of men
and households in rural areas unable to support their families. The
socio-demographic characteristics of the woman head of a rural household vary
greatly according to countries but these include single, divorced, widowed and
abandoned women.
Most female-headed households fall in the lowest income groups, and a
high proportion of very poor households are female-headed. Women have to
provide for themselves and their families while facing all the liabilities of
their gender in rural societies in terms of access to land rights, property,
credit, improved technologies and training.

Plantation Labour
Another frequently disadvantaged category of rural women workers is on
plantations. The working and living conditions of men and women workers in
plantations is an area of long standing concern to the ILO. Regularly
reviewing the ratification and implementation of ILO standards, the Committee
on Work on Plantations of the ILO has adopted various resolutions relating to
freedom of association and the exercise of trade union rights on plantations,

- 17 -

most recently concerning conditions of work of women. Several studies
(including on Sri Lanka and Malaysia) have attempted to document the nature
and situation of female labour on plantations and their role in plantation
labour systems.
The plantation crops of Sri Lanka tea, rubber and coconuts account
for about 70 per cent of the country's exports and depend on women for more
than half the required labour. Some are Sinhalese villagers, generally female
heads of poor households; most are Tamils resident on the plantations, for
whom men generally receive payment for all the family's labour. The wage rate
for women on plantations is lower than for men, even for the same task. A
woman's working day (in addition to housework) is extraordinarily long, and
the compensation insufficient to avoid malnutrition. This persists in spite
of the high degree of organisation (80 per cent of plantation workers belong
to trade unions) and regulation by the Government. Some of the problems of
female plantation workers result from unstable or declining world commodity
markets, but others are characteristic of the structure of plantation labour
systems, which typically involve a resident labour force dependent entirely on
the plantation for employment and housing (Kurian, 1982)
In Malaysia, female rubber workers on plantations were traditionally
employed as family workers, receiving consistently lower wages than men doing
similar work (tapping and field work). Natural rubber has periodically faced
serious competition from synthetic substitutes and technological developments
have enabled estates to cut down on permanent labour requirements.
Consequently, there is increasing displacement and reallocation of labour,
both male and female, accompanied by special strains on women in addition to
that borne by all workers. Currently, as male labour slowly shifts out of
estate work into available commercial activities, women estate workers are
given equal pay and creche facilities to encourage their shift into full-time
estate work, so that they can take on men's former work as well (otherwise
they may lose their right of residence on the plantation). Moreover, with the
manifold household responsibilities of women, they have had to make increasing
recourse to child labour (particularly girls) to aid them (Heyzer-Fan, 1981).

- 18 -


An obvious concern of the Programme is with the dissemination of
research findings and insights, including the stimulation of debate, further
research, and most importantly, relevant action at various levels.
A principal means of sharing information has been the publication of
monographs, working papers, seminar reports and technical cooperation reports
(see appended list). These seldom reach to the grass roots, but they do
enable a spreading of information and analyses among academic and bureaucratic
circles as well as among NGOs and leaders of some grass roots organizations.
Where the original research was effectively participatory, the people
themselves gained in knowledge and perception long before the appearance of
publications about their concerns.
The Programme has begun to experiment with audio-visual means of
documentation which are more relevant for facilitating exchanges of experience
and insights between groups of rural women. In order to promote dissemination
in a wider sense (both geographically and in terms of levels), other agencies
and NGO's have been important. For example, a slide film made of "The Women
of Rangabelia" (India), who organised themselves and thus improved their
working and living conditions and status, has been copied by UNICEF to use in
its wide-ranging programme for the Development of Women and Children in Rural
Areas (in India) as well as for other countries. A short Hindi version has
been used by a local NGO to stimulate discussion among rural women. A Bengali
version is being produced by another NGO, for use in Bangladesh as well as
eastern India. NORAD has funded the Freedom from Hunger Campaign to provide
hand projectors and tape recorders for village showings.
The other principal means available to the Programme to reach more
people with its findings is workshops and seminars. In addition to
participating in meetings organised by others, there have been a number of
meetings planned and held by the Programme. These have involved government,
employer and worker representatives; international as well as grass root NGOs;
other UN agencies; activists; and researchers. (Workshops or organised
dialogues among rural women, officials and technicians are discussed below, in
the context of technical cooperation.)
Three tripartite regional seminars on Rural Development and Women
(financed by the Federal Republic of Germany) were held during 1981 in Asia
(Mahabaleshwar, India, 6-11 April), Africa (Dakar, Senegal, 15-19 June) and
Latin America (Patzcuaro, Mexico, 24-28 August). They contributed to a
dissemination of research findings and stimulation of interaction between

- 19 -

researchers, planners and policy makers, Employers' and Workers'
representatives, as well as other individuals concerned with women's issues.
The Seminars were largely organised by Third World women themselves, and in
the case of the African regional seminar, in close co-operation with the
Association of African Women for Research and Development (AAWORD).
The participants in the Asian Seminar concluded that prevailing models
of development tend to work to the detriment of poor rural women, denying them
due recognition as producers, and contributing to a growing polarisation and
alienation. The commercialization of agriculture and fisheries tends to
displace female labour and may reduce their access to food. The advancement
of modern dairying sometimes drains milk from rural areas, lowering
nutritional levels. Forest development frequently means the planting and
protection of trees for the lumbering industry and commercial interests at the
expense of poor rural families and particularly women who rely on forests for
food, fuel, fodder and livelihood. Insufficient or improper investment in the
interests of the poor in rural areas causes impoverishment, resulting in the
migration of men or women separately and of families to various areas, in
search of work, with significant strains on their health and that of their
children. Encouragement of work for women in their homes on a putting-out
basis may help them support their families but it typically means evasion of
labour, welfare and tax laws along with extremely low wage earnings for the
The participants in the Asian Seminar agreed on the importance of
grass-roots, participatory, self-reliant organizations to support the
interests of rural women workers. Trade unions, co-operatives and other rural
workers' organizations should have women's units or wings at all levels, to
ensure that women workers' interests receive prominence and priority, along
with interests common to rural men and women. Governments have a
responsibility to consult with rural working women so that policies which

affect them will be based on their own perceptions and what they express to be
their needs and priorities.
The themes of the African Regional Seminar were: food production and
processing; commercialization and the modernisation of agriculture; migration;
organisation; and policy implications. There was some particularly useful
debate on: the national and international context of rural development and the
limitations thus imposed on narrow initiatives; approaches to developing and
introducing improved methods and tools to assist women in their productive
roles in food processing; patterns, causes and the impact on women of
migration and resettlement; projects for women vs. integrated projects; and

- 20 -

strategies for promoting change. The conclusions adopted by the participants
indicate some broad areas of agreement on priorities with respect to research
and data collection, food production, rural modernisation, migration and
women's organizations.
The items on the agenda of the Latin American Seminar covered women in
subsistence agriculture in Latin America; women employed for wages in the
export sector; the impact of modernisation, including agrarian reform on
women; and participation of women in rural workers' organizations, including
The problems of women in rural areas were discussed in the broader
context of rural development and the prevailing agrarian crisis in Latin
America. A number of speakers referred to the growing proletarianisation in
rural areas in Latin America and the increased need by women, especially young
girls, to seek paid work outside the household. Mention was made of the
internationalisation of women's work in large-scale export-oriented farm
enterprises, where mainly young girls were being hired on short-term
contracts, varying from month to month, and paid at below minimum wages.
Sexual abuse was reported to be high on such farms. Reference was also made
during the course of the meeting to the growing number of female-headed
households and the need to focus more attention on the particular difficulties
they experience. The conclusions also covered research priorities, stressing
the particular need for more precise field data to form a basis for more
appropriate policies concerning women workers in rural areas.
It was said that entering into wage employment did not necessarily lead
to an increase in social status for women; on the contrary, it often meant an
assumption of a double and even triple workload (in the home, on the
subsistence farm and in wage employment), with a transfer of women's
traditional subordination to the work place in the modern sector. There was
some evidence of break-up of extended families, with older women seeking paid
employment. At the same time it was admitted that cash income did give women
more control over expenditure and encouragement to resist husbands' authority
and abuse. However, there was no stability of employment for these women, who
constituted a reserve supply of labour, being expected to return to housework
during periods of depression.
The Programme also organised an informal workshop on Rural Women Workers
in Asia at the ILO's International Centre for Advanced Technical and
Vocational Training in Turin, 30 November 4 December 1981. Participants who
have been engaged in research and development work came from many Asian
countries as well as Europe, to focus on development strategies at the local,

- 21 -

national and international levels, and in particular to scrutinise the
approach taken by the Programme on Rural Women in both research and technical
co-operation. In-depth discussions were held on means of action for
employment creation and access to resources, with women workers'
organisational base being recognized as a key to both.
A number of problem areas were highlighted, including insecurity of
employment and discriminatory wages, general powerlessness of poor rual women,
invisibility of women's work, and frequent hostility to women's attempts to
develop organised pressure. For improvement, given the very limited
opportunities available in non-farm employment and the informal sector, it was
suggested that the focus should be on agriculturally-related activities,
including food processing, fisheries, forestry and sericulture. Organizations
of women were emphasised as important in facilitating access to markets,
resources and technology, up-grading skills, provision of essential services
and transforming consciousness. Different forms and levels of organisation
were discussed, with illustrations from the experience of the People's
Republic of China inter alia. One problem raised was the tendency for rural
interests to be mediated through urban interests, starting with towns in rural
areas, so that the pursuit of interests of rural workers was more difficult.
The problem of modern forms of organisation, requiring registration, etc.,
compared to traditional forms, was considered. It was argued by some
participants that there were basic difficulties in working with national
women's organizations whose members came from different social classes. At
the same time, it was pointed out that there were women members of goodwill in
national bodies, and it would be arrogant to presume that they could not
become genuinely involved and committed, as indeed the participants in the
workshop had.
The fact that rural women may migrate in order to find alternative
employment was raised by many participants, with illustrations from various
countries of rural-rural, rural-urban and international movement. While
migration was seen as sometimes beneficial for the migrant, it is also a
symptom of rural poverty; and movement can trap women in urban slums or
domestic service or prostitution at home or abroad. Legislation is often
ineffective in controlling the abuses, by recruiters and others. Access to
and control over resources, especially land, was seen as a key element in
developing remunerative local alternatives to migration from rural areas.
In considering some planned future subjects of research the
putting-out system, female-headed households and women in the labour process -

- 22 -

the discussions tended to converge on the linkages to the over-all patterns of
One of the reasons for focussing on female-headed families is the
special burden faced by women in combining both productive and household work
necessary for the survival of the family. In order to understand the role of
women in the over-all labour process, it is necessary to focus on household
work, and the ways it is and can be performed. The necessity of longer hours
of work by women outside the household space may force daughters to take on
more of such work, or domestic servants may do it, or the State, or
conceivably, men (family members or from a lower class). A desire to minimise
the cost of providing such household services helps to explain official
encouragement of domestic outwork or the putting-out system, in the interests
of maximising rural and national accumulation. Employment policies promoting
the recruitment of young unmarried women can be seen in the same light. An
analysis of this substitution process facilitates understanding of sexual,
class, and rural-urban interests.
There was also a discussion on methodology and participatory research
(or "group social investigations") in which inter alia the question was raised
of compensating individuals interviewed, in order to ensure that there was
reciprocity in the information gathering process. The conclusion was that no
rule could be applied as to the desirability of paying "interviewing fees" or
other time compensation or gifts, and that it might be an appropriate subject
for discussion with the people themselves. Success in handling this
potentially difficult and painful problem clearly depends on the sensitivity
and creativity of the researcher. Illustrations include: the researcher, if
there for a short time, bringing along a person competent in simple health
care or local skills; taking up some of the people's concerns with officials;
or bringing animals or other food items.
During 1983, regional workshops were held in Zimbabwe and Malaysia in
the context of an effort to draw lessons and promote constructive action based
on initiatives which have been "successful" in improving the employment
conditions of rural women in Africa and Asia. In Kuala Lumpur (14-18 November
1983), planners debated with worker and employer and NGO representatives,
activists and resource people, the questions of: appropriate forms of
organizations and women's participation (in trade unions, associations and
social movements); approaches to encouraging and supporting initiatives;
information gaps, means of collection and dissemination; and national
structures and strategies. The workshop, jointly sponsored with the Asian and
Pacific Development Center, aimed not at a set of general prescriptions but at

- 23 -

stimulating new initiatives among those with some decision-making power,
within governments and non-governmental organizations, as they themselves
concretise within their own societies some of the ideas and illustrations that
were presented (Ahmad, 1983; Loutfi, 1983b; Muntemba, 1983).
A prior meeting a consultative workshop among Africans involved in
identifying and documenting "successful" initiatives as well as resource
people (activists) from Asia and the Caribbean was held at the University of
Zimbabwe, Harare (5-9 September 1983). With the documentors coming from
government and NGOs as well as universities, a practical exchange was possible
on defining success, participatory research, organisation, and national
structures and strategies.
This effort to identify "successful" initiatives is based on the view
that communication of the reality faced by rural women and the potential that
lies in their effective participation to those who hold decision-making
authority over rural development planning is facilitated more by positive,
constructive illustrations than by purely critical analysis. The reports
reveal nearly as much failure as success, and raise as many questions as
answers; but they show, within general processes of change, some constructive
elements and signs of encouragement on which one can build. In addition to a
final, interregional African and Asian Workshop (Arusha, 20-25 August 1984),
documentation is being prepared in various forms to facilitate the essential
widespread dissemination of information and analysis of these relatively
successful initiatives (Bose, Loutfi and Muntemba, 1984).

- 24 -


ILO's technical cooperation with government, NGO's, and rural women's
organizations has, from one point of view, been extremely small scale,
experimental and scattered. No goal was set to reach millions directly. The
underlying purpose of the initial approach was to learn from the rural women
themselves, to learn from their past experience, as well as from working
together with them closely in trying out new initiatives that would be
identified and undertaken by the women workers themselves. Crucial to this
process was also the establishment of linkages of various kinds and at
different levels which would enable the rural women to learn from each other.
At the same time, the ILO has been helping concerned nationals at higher
levels to learn from rural women themselves so that their projects, programmes
and policies could be more relevant to rural women's needs and priorities.
This included demonstrating mechanisms for regular feedback and arranging
occasions for interaction between the concerned officials and rural women.
Networks have been created within and between countries which have brought
fresh views and innovative experiences to women in some of the most backward
villages as well as to national agencies and institutions. This process is an
on-going and continuous one, and can be considered basic to the approach
evolved by the ILO.
A second crucial component of these ILO projects -- and one which
appears to be particularly rare in women's projects -- has been the
flexibility of responding to rural women's immediate as well as changing
needs. This was made possible by the provision of flexible funding (or an
"aid fund"), the use of which was not predetermined except in the broadest
sense. Initially it was conceived of as a small fund for village-level
follow-up activities to national-level evaluations of rural women's
programmes; gradually it has come to be considered as an essential element in
any genuine effort to promote participatory development. No international or
national officer, whether sitting in Geneva or even a national capital, can
possibly pre-determine a year or more in advance the needs and changing
realities of poor rural women down to a precise list of supplies, equipment,
materials and services; those who try to plan development in this way close
all doors to genuine participation in developmental efforts before a project
even starts. Of course, careful checks and balances must be built into the
procedures for use of such a fund to assure that it is put to the best
possible use, but without this mechanism (and the understanding of donors it
required) it is doubtful whether half the present journey towards success
could have been completed.

- 25 -

The range and diversity of conditions -- environmental, social, cultural
economic and political -- under which poor rural women labour defies
description in a report of this type, although to some extent it will become
evident as the projects are described below. These projects in Asia have
consciously "targeted" the most disadvantaged categories of women, and hence
tribal women, women from the lowest castes and other ethnic and religious
minority groups, the majority of whom are landless agricultural labourers; in
Africa illiterate rural women workers and refugees have been a focus. But
social norms affecting women's roles in the family, the community and the
production process vary considerably, even though patriarchy has an
ideological stronghold in all of the project areas. The ecological and social
diversities are no less considerable than the economic and political
differences -- and are often intertwined, especially if one accepts the
broader definition of politics to include local structures of power and
authority. The local power base is of considerable importance, particularly
in terms of "political space" allowed to voluntary organizations, to an
approach which is rooted in the belief that poor rural women workers must
organise themselves freely, democratically and without political party
affiliation or outside control over their organisation in order to achieve any
meaningful or sustainable socio-economic improvements in their lives. The ILO
projects have been acutely sensitive to these issues and have emphasised the
importance of legitimisation within the existing legal framework for
organisation. The ILO's Programme for Rural Women has attempted to link
research and evaluation with the initiation and implementation of innovative
projects for the promotion of rural women's employment. The Programme's
capacity has been strengthened by these inter-linkages and complementarities.
One element of action which has emerged in the past several years has
been grass-roots "dialogues" (or encounters or workshops or camps), where for
several days rural women confront local experts and officials (in their own
language) with their needs and priorities, and the officials and experts in
turn inform the village women of their programmes and projects.
It is only the people themselves who really know their problems and
needs and it is they who should determine priorities. It is ultimately they
who must make the effort and assume the responsibility for overcoming the
principal obstacles. This requires a participatory approach to rural
development. Yet there are very few structures or mechanisms by which people
at higher levels can learn from rural women; even those dedicated field
workers who work closely with the rural poor are often frustrated because
their experiences and understanding of local realities do not filter up to the

- 26 -

places where the policy decisions are made. To be effective, it requires
motivated and concerned people "change agents", "activists" or development
workers with a commitment to working with poor women (and men) in rural
areas. They act not only as facilitators but also contribute to the people's
analyses and evaluation of the existing situation, problems and opportunities.
The projects described below include an Asian regional project ("Action
to Assist Rural Women in Asia"), an interregional project ("Employment
Opportunities for Rural Women Through Organisation") and national projects in
Thailand and Somalia. Two other interregional projects which have substantial
research and documention components are discussed elsewhere: "Identification
of Successful Projects for Improving the Employment Conditions of Rural Women"
- see Section IV; and "Energy and Rural Women's Work" see Section VI.
Under the project of "Action to Assist Rural Women in Asia" (funded by
the Government of Norway) information was first collected on critical needs of
rural women in terms of their working conditions and income, and then forums
were provided for the rural women to interact directly with policy makers and
others who are in a position to respond constructively to these needs. One or
another form of such a local level dialogue has been organised by the
Programme in six Asian countries Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the
Philippines and Sri Lanka.
In Bangladesh, a local team first evaluated all the major Government and
NGO programmes which aim to reach and assist poor women in rural areas. These
preliminary findings were then exposed in a series of local workshops among
beneficiaries and programme staff, to analyse and verify the findings in line
with the people's experience and perceptions, and discuss alternatives. Then
some of these village women came to a national workshop (in 1984) in order to
themselves explain their problems and suggestions to those responsible for the
programmes, with a view toward rendering the national programmes more relevant
and appropriate, and demonstrating the value of such a dialogue. It is too
early to determine the real impact.
In India the dialogues were held in four states, in the form of
intensive three-day rural women's "camps". The emphasis was on identifying
and analysing their problems and, together with appropriate local experts and
officials, forming concrete action plans to improve their employment, income
and conditions of work. The first workshop (in 1983) was in Tajpur (Jullundur
district, Punjab) It focused on poor, low caste women with whom the ILO had
already been working to upgrade their traditional leather working skills and
assist them in overcoming obstacles to marketing their products. Women came
from neighboring villages to engage first in intensive group discussions on

- 27 -

their problems, to identify priorities with the assistance of visual aids
(charts, photographs and drawings); on the third day, they presented their
plan of action to invited officials and functionaires of the women's
organizations (Mahila Mandals). The officials were confronted with examples
of the women's vulnerability even in a state as prosperous as Punjab: their
attempt to obtain a higher daily wage which was still less than the legal
minimum had been easily rebuffed by the landlord; distribution of yellow cards
which identify poor families had been abused. Concrete results included: the
gift of a parcel of land to the women's organisation for the construction of a
production and training center; a commitment to investigate the misuse of
yellow cards; backing by the Punjab Tanneries of a proposed project involving
improved technology; and the formation of a committee to develop the centre,
liase with officials and pursue agreed objectives. This committee has been
meeting monthly and, with the assistance of the ILO through a local NGO, has
formulated additional projects. This activity has benefitted from the
implementation in the same area of another ILO project, "Employment
Opportunities for Rural Women through Organisation" which includes flexible
funds enabling rapid responses to emerging needs (see p. 40f.).
Jhilimili (Bankura District, West Bengal), an arrid forested area, was
the site of the second workshop (1983). Here also the ILO was already active
in promoting women's employment through organisation. A documentary exhibit
was a helpful means of focussing discussion among the women workers who came
from 27 villages. Some issues were common, such as a need for minor
irrigation works and planting trees useful to the local population as well as
better health care, social security for the aged, child care for working
mothers, and more primary school teachers; others were location-specific,
including training in sericulture (among women who have been assisted in tree
planting and re establishing traditional tussar-silk production in the area),
improved road links (among women whose economic activities depended on
transport), representation in the management of the local cooperative society
(a government-sponsored society to promote fair trading in forest produce and
local consumer goods); and participation in the local councils (responsible
for small-scale development activities).
The Minister for Land Reforms, Panchayat and Rural Development, who came
to the camp said that many people believed that women lacked motivation for
participation in development activities, yet here was strong evidence to the
contrary. The Minister for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Welfare was
pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and articulation among the women. The
women and the organizations (rural women workers' development organisations)

- 28 -

which they have formed demonstrated the potential for "planning from below".
Many of their requests resulted in commitments by officials to take action,
and a mechanism for effective consultation was confirmed.
A third camp held in Bakewar (Etawah District, United Province) in 1983
faced a more difficult situation, as there was no local organisation and it is
a particularly backward area in developmental terms and with respect to
women's subordination. Yet women from the poorest and most oppressed sections
of the rural society came together inspite of threatening rumours, and
expressed their desperate need for employment and concern with discrimination
in wages, excessive hours of work (10 hours required of agricultural
labourers), destitution in face of the numerous instances of abandonment, fees
for girls' education (which was supposed to be free), the burden of dowry
(including extortion and bride deaths), very low returns to home-based
sericulture activity and unhealthy conditions, male gambling, corruption in
provision of loans and in sterilisation payments, health problems, and lack of
representation on village councils. These women had no experience with
collective solutions to their problems, but a start was made in: linking the
women with avenues for gaining legal assistance (from a civil judge); support
from the Economic Planning Division for three employment schemes proposed by
the women (in sericulture, goat-rearing and spice processing); and obtaining
promises of improvement in educational and health services.
A workshop (1983) in Bramno Ka Verde (Udaipur district, Rajasthan) a
rocky, deforested area, took advantage of recent activities by another local
NGO which had been organising the rural poor in the area, including informal
women's groups, so there was less need for conscientisation and more of a
focus on specific employment possibilities. The potential of non-agricultural
wasteland development through rural women's organizations received major
attention, and the women have requested release of such land so they can
produce fuel, fodder and medicinal herbs. The women rejected large-scale
poultry and modern sericulture production as unsuited to local conditions (the
poultry project would have introduced delicate breeds and the women would be
serving urban markets over very poor roads; the sericulture project would have
required water and good soil which they did not have). Again in this area,
progress has been made in establishing a mechanism for consultation, dialogue
and participation.
In Nepal an evaluation of eleven programmes for women done for the
Ministry of Panchayats and Local Development along with two in-depth case
studies done for the ILO and a video-tape presentation formed the basis for a
national level "dialogue workshop" in 1983 among officials and rural women

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from 13 districts, including "change agents" as well as beneficiaries. One of
the issues they confronted was integrated versus separate programmes for
women. Two high level (male) officials stated that creating separate
programmes hinders women's full integration, and the household as a whole
should be the target, not women. The women forcefully defended the continuing
need for separate programmes because, they argued: within the household women
cannot speak openly if men are present; the men drink and mishandle the women
in mixed village gatherings; villagers will gossip and ruin the marriage
chances of unmarried women who participate in mixed groups; if the household
is the unit, the women cannot get loans for their activities; and while men
claim that women are equal, the reality is quite different. They concluded
that joint groups may be possible at higher levels, but not in most cases at
the grass-roots level the local reality must be taken into account.
Other issues raised by the women included: irrelevant project designs
and lack of planning, institutional support and follow-up; inadequate access
to raw materials and training programmes; lack of women's integration into
technical programmes; and failure to provide specific women's programmes where
Such a critical approach was encouraged by the Ministry, which has since
requested the ILO to assist in the development of a project incorporating
participatory village and regional workshops, to expand the demonstrated
mechanism for direct communication with rural women.
In Pakistan, the workshops (also in 1983) were preceded by surveys on
rural women's work in handicraft production in Sind including a study of the
attitude of household members towards women and the role of brokers and
traders. Given the inexperience of these poor women in speaking out even
among themselves, four local mini-workshops were held among the women
producers and local social workers and teachers. It was revealed that the
women engaged in home-based production of handicrafts generally felt that they
were "forced" (by husbands and other male family members) to do such work
because of family poverty superimposed on the social custom inhibiting outside
work and the lack of "respectable" alternatives. Their major problems
included inadequate access to relevant raw materials and severe marketing
obstacles, while middlemen and traders extract enormous profits. During the
course of the workshop, the women began to understand the need to establish
institutional marketing channels. Then a regional workshop was held in
Hyderabad, where alternatives were considered. The women agreed to discuss
them on return to their villages.

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Major results in South Asia could not be expected rapidly the
workshops mentioned above were in most cases the first opportunity for rural
women from disadvantaged groups to participate actively in a process of
evaluation and planning. The ILO is continuing to promote this approach,
geared in each case to local needs and socio-economic and cultural realities.
By inviting participants from research teams and in some cases activists and
representatives of organizations from other areas and other countries, an
exchange or "cross-fertilisation" of ideas and approaches has also been
The project took a somewhat different form in the other countries
covered. For example, the plantation sector is very important for rural and
national development in the Philippines and Sri Lanka, so the role of women in
this sector was the focus of activities there.
In the Philippines, a national workshop on Rural Women's Issues in
selected plantations was held in 1982 in co-operation with the Rural Workers'
Bureau of the Ministry of Labour. It focused on a background document that
had emerged from deliberations among rural women plantation workers through
participatory research on their working conditions, needs and priorities.
Participants in the workshop included rural women, officials, animateurs and
two foreign facilitators who had participated in the first Sri Lanka workshop
(see below). The women started with a feeling that their work was less
important and much of it was not "real" work. The workshop discussions led
them to better understand such misleading distinctions in categorising work
and the negative impact of such thinking on their self-confidence. The women
emerged from the workshop with increased consciousness of the value of group
action, confidence and understanding of the value of women's work. They
decided to rewrite the background paper in line with the insights they had
gained. Follow-up activities among the women are being supported by the ILO
and Norway.
The workshops in Sri Lanka were of a distinct type because the women
were already organised (into trade unions). Drawing on extensive research
that had been done on the role of women workers in the plantation sector
(Kurian, 1982), the focus in the workshop was on this organised rural sector,
in which women constitute about half of the trade union members. The
workshops were organised in cooperation with the trade unions. First a
workshop was held (1982) in a plantation area among workers and organizers
from five plantation trade unions. Starting from a low level of awareness or
resignation about their own issues, the women participants articulated a
number of problem areas for action, including unequal remuneration, hazardous

- 31 -

tasks, unpaid holidays, shops deducting credit first from women's wages
(rather than men's), poor educational facilities, creches, maternity care, but
above all, the womrn's long hours of work, which led to some discussion on the
need for men to share household work. The women agreed to set up an action
committee with representatives of all the major unions and requested a
follow-up meeting with high level union officials in a dialogue with the
original participants.
The follow-up meeting was held in Colombo (in 1983) during which
surprising progress was reported since the earlier workshop, including some
male help with domestic tasks. Some of the women had been promoted in the
union hierarchy in the interim. They were now better able to articulate and
specify their recommendations. The General Secretaries participated in one
session, encouraging the women to develop their strength to pursue their
objectives and pressure the union leadership. The women participants
established a Women's Coordination Committee (with members from four unions)
to identify ways and means of increasing women's effective participation in
the trade unions. They have started setting up plantation-level committees.
Subsequently, the ILO was able to support the participation of the
President and Secretary of this Coordination Committee in a trade union
workshop in Malaysia (also in the Tamil language) on women in the plantation
sector, where they were able to inspire their fellow (sister) plantation
workers and assist them in articulating their needs. It should be noted that
such exchanges are one of the most cost-effective mechanisms this Programme
has found for extending the benefits and lessons that emerge in experimental
An interregional project, supported by the Netherlands, has been
underway since 1980 which focuses on creating "Employment Opportunities for
Rural Women through Organisation", involving Mexico, Senegal, India, Nepal and
Pakistan. The ability of this project to facilitate the development of an
organisational base among deprived women in rural areas derives from the
combination of several factors: participatory evaluations of existing efforts
by government and NGO's to reach and support poor women in rural areas;
supporting local educated and committed women (and sometimes men) in
interaction with village women, with the more-educated people bringing
insights, wider knowledge and organisational skills and the rural women
providing the understanding of local reality, context, needs and priorities;
and a substantial portion of project funds left unspecified until such time
when the local interaction succeeds in identifying particular needs for
technologies, raw materials, skill up-grading, or specific expertise. While

- 32 -

the results vary in each socio-economic-cultural-political context within and
between countries, the commonalities include a focus on: the felt needs of
particularly disadvantaged women in rural areas; raising their productivity
income and status; and facilitating organisation and self-reliance.
The project has been operational longer in the case of India than
elsewhere. The activities were built on prior assessments of needs carried
out by a local NGO for the ILO's Training Department and were coordinated with
the implementation of the project described above (which provided a basis for
workshops or camps for more concentrated group-awareness-building and
dialogues with officials and experts). The careful planning based on local
needs and conditions and carried out in close consultation with the women
themselves (initially on a small scale and on a very flexible basis), can
where successful, have a powerful demonstration and catalytic effect, allowing
rapid expansion and benefits for many more rural women and their families. In
West Bengal, a fledgling women workers' society of 34 members has within 18
months expanded to more than 600 members coming from 20 villages; the present
effort is to consolidate the gains before acceding to the requests for
large-scale expansion. The demonstration effect has been reinforced by the
fact that, once organised, women from very deprived areas have been able to
gain access to significant resources from government agencies and programmes
and from the community which had not previously reached them, involving land,
finance, seedlings, technologies, health care and nutrition. The focus on
productive work has included goat raising, poultry, bee keeping, piggery,
improved leaf plates, and tree-planting for sericulture and fodder in West
Bengal. Leather handicrafts have been the focus in Punjab among leather
working castes; organisation-building and marketing assistance along with
skill up-grading were the main activities supported. In Rajasthan, an active
rural development NGO provided a local base, and it was encouraged to pay more
particular attention to the women's employment needs. In this area of
Rajasthan, where women were seasonal agricultural migrant labourers and partly
dependent on the forests for a livelihood, the identified activities include
medicinal herbs, poultry and goat raising accompanied by fuel and fodder
production on wasteland. As elsewhere, the overriding concern is to
strengthen the women workers' organisational base, so that they can develop
and sustain activities that aim at objectives they set for themselves.
The remarkable results in India led to an extension of this approach in
Nepal and Pakistan. In Nepal, a local team undertook an analysis of the
women's credit groups within the Small Farmers' Development Programme (SFDP),
which has been organising small farmers with a view to improving their access

- 33 -

to resources and services. After a broad review of the women's programme,
discussions were held with eight groups and their Women Group Organisers. It
was found that the credit disbursed was primarily for cottage industry, with
some livestock. The participatory evaluation undertaken noted marketing
difficulties for handicraft output and women's need for support in livestock,
agricultural and horticultural activities, including extension services,
training and timely access to inputs. The recommendation fed into the overall
planning of the SFDP. The workshop is discussed above.
In Pakistan, a local husband and wife team first reviewed existing
programmes for rural women in the Sind, and then identified appropriate kinds
of support, working closely with district officials and national and local
institutions. The approach which was adopted integrated men and women, which
resulted in the mobilisation of considerable local resources including land,
material, buildings and labour, and also integrated a range of activities
aimed at meeting basic needs, including water purification, health and
sanitation along with livestock, biogas, tomato processing, sericulture and
handicrafts. Inspite of a change of team, the project is regaining its
remarkable momentum, demonstrating an unexpected potential for participatory
integrated rural development in the area.
While the situation of women in Senegal is certainly quite different, a
similar approach has been fruitful, namely, supporting an evaluation of
existing projects for women by a local team (Savane, 1982) and then assisting
some women on a pilot basis to improve their productivity and strengthen their
organisational base, with the assistance of animatrices provided by the
Government. In one area, some women were members of an inactive cooperative
for fish processing. Lengthy discussions among the women and catalysts led to
a better awareness of their capacity to improve their situation and reduce the
attitude of dependency on agencies for gifts. Some material assistance raised
their productivity and income, and was to be repaid into a revolving fund. In
another area, the village women have traditionally engaged in collective work
palm-oil pressing in particular but with very simple techniques. They
have now taken the preliminary steps to form a formal organisation and to
diversify their productive activities, while trying out some locally-developed
improved technologies for palm oil pressing. In both areas,
consciousness-raising was important, but so was the ILO's ability to respond
to identified needs of women in their productive work. The animatrices have
been exposed to a more participatory approach which should lead to much
broader effects.

- 34 -

In the case of Mexico, for a variety of local institutional reasons,
only the first, evaluation, phase was carried out (Barbieri, 1983). The
evaluation considered Government projects designed to create employment for
rural women, and focused on two villages in the states of Michoacan and
Coahuila. Production and marketing problems were found to be particularly
serious in the case of clothing production, but in general, the team found
that the rural credit bank that supported the projects had paid insufficient
attention to crucial factors, including organisation and marketing that would
enable the activities to be viable.
The team felt that a different approach was required, not just marginal
adjustments to the existing projects. Extensive discussions were held with
various officials and administrators with a view toward understanding and
improving their programmes.
A national project is underway in Thailand (supported by the ILO's own
technical cooperation funds), which has since attracted the support of the
Voluntary Fund for the UN Decade of Women: "Self-Employment Promotion for
Rural Women Through Self-Help Organisations". This involves an effort to
focus on women's organisational base for economic activities.
In response to requests from the UNHCR and the Government of Somalia,
the ILO initiated a project in 1981 among women refugees, aimed to assist them
and their associations in generating an income producing goods for which they
already had the skills and which were on the priority list for distribution to
refugees. From modest beginnings in very difficult circumstances drought,

then floods, and refugees' established habits of dependence on rations the
original activities, which provided steady income for about 600 women in
mat-weaving, have evolved into an integrated refugee camp development project,
involving men and women in pilot agricultural production, food processing,
soap making, chicken-raising and mud-brick making as well as some
handicrafts. (Hall, 1982) The largely Somali staff has been assisted by
short-term third world experts in marketing, appropriate technology and soap
production (Muttreja, 1983; Ryan, 1983). Self-sufficiency remains
unattainable for the moment, and full rations are still provided, but by
gradually building up activities in close consultation with the refugees
themselves, some concrete progress has been made, and other agencies and NGO's
have seen a feasible and realistic approach. It is now expected that some of
the local project staff, including some refugees, will be able to take over
some of the project activities and receive local support, to allow foreign
expertise to withdraw. They have registered their own organisation,
"Haqabtir" ("to satisfy a need"), and are now planning their future activities.

35 -

Drawing lessons from evaluations of past projects, the Programme has
been able in a number of countries to experiment with distinctive,
participatory kinds of technical cooperation, working with local groups and
local experts, utilising research and flexible assistance to instigate an

interactive process of advancement both of rural development and of women

- 36 -


Women, Land and Agricultural Production
The linkages between women's rights to land and agricultural production
are complex, and they take distinct forms in different societies.
Nevertheless, land being the basic rural asset, rural women's work and role in
rural economies cannot be understood without a consideration of this
Some preliminary research has been done on the impact of land reform
programmes on women. In most countries, the interests of women producers have
been neglected, with the result that their economic insecurity may even be
increased with land reform. The land reform process in Ethiopia offers an
example of social reform which has attempted but not fully met the needs and
expectations of rural women, since family law was not altered, and women are
not recognized as full members along with men of the peasant associations
(Tadesse, 1982). The appropriation and allocation of land by the State in the
Ivory Coast and Senegal similarly seems to have neglected women's interests
(Traore, 1981; and Ba et al, 1981). Women did participate actively in the
Peruvian movement for land reform and in the initial stages in the formation
and running of the cooperatives, but they have failed to derive much benefit
from the new organisation of production, partly because of the structures and
also their household duties (Chambeu de Franco, 1981). Land reform in Peru
also appears to have left unchanged the patriarchal culture and ideology,
continuing to under-represent the real economic contribution of women, who
also participate very little in assemblies, decisions or leadership
(Fernandez, 1981). Women were also active in the land reform campaigns in
West Bengal, India, although their role had been ignored until recent
research by a leading (male) participant and chronicler of the struggles. In
Mozambique, peasant women have taken on a new set of tasks and
responsibilities in production and political decision-making in the national
process of socialist transformation, with the active backing of the State and
the Organisation of Mozambican Women. Although that has meant a longer
working day, as domestic chores still remain largely women's work, now that
obstacle is also being faced (Urdang, forthcoming).
The Programme is now turning to a more explicit and wide-ranging
examination of the broad subject of women, land and agricultural production.
Land developments have commonly placed women in a disadvantaged position
and their traditional rights have been eroded. Even where land reforms and
resettlements have been implemented with a view to promoting egalitarian

- 37 -

development, women tend to be excluded. In some regions, with increased male
migration, females form the relatively greater percentage of rural
populations, with agricultural production dependent on a higher labour input
from women than from men. Heavily involved in agricultural production, women
however seldom hold rights to land in their own names. In rural societies
where land is the most important means of production, this lack of control
over land and all that goes with it (status, availability of credit and other
inputs) can become a major source of economic dependence. Moreover, in all
the regions, food requirements on a household level, although not necessarily
on a national level (because of food imports), are threatened.
In Africa, women have traditionally held usufructory rights to land
either directly (in matrilineal societies) or through male relatives
patrilineall societies) or through temporary "loans". Yet during the last 80
years, with increased privatization and shortage of good land, these rights
have been gradually eroded. This marginalisation of women's and men's access
to land takes on a particularly critical dimension because of the acute and
growing food shortage facing the region, and since traditionally more than
in the other regions women have been the producers of cultivated foodstuffs
for domestic consumption. Women, of course, also work on cash crops, but
principally as labourers with the men taking control of the crops harvested.
In the colonial and post-colonial periods, this role has been reinforced as
many men were drawn into cash crop production and labour migration. The
formulation of an adequate food strategy for the region must take into account
women's central position in food production, their productive capacity and
therefore the importance of their access and title to land.
Despite a relatively low average population density, good agricultural
land is not plentiful. Competition and conflict to control this scarce
resource stretch back over many centuries and lie at the basis of the
evolution of diverse indigenous land tenure systems. Several factors have
exacerbated land conflicts in this century, particularly the alienation of
large tracts of better quality land by local elites for cash cropping or
investment, and the implementation of large-scale development schemes, such as
for hydro-electric power generation. At the same time, land remains crucial
for subsistence food production and for social security, since African
countries have not developed adequate state social security systems.
Additionally, title to land provides a major collateral for agricultural
credit (although in some countries not as important as herds, etc) and the
basis for participation in most agricultural cooperatives. Many have lost
access to good agricultural land, conveniently located, while some have become

- 38 -

completely dispossessed. Of this unfortunate group, women form the majority.
In Asia, food production has not depended as much on women as in Africa,
nor is the percentage of female household heads as high as in the Caribbean.
In Asia's Green Revolution areas, agricultural modernisation has succeeded in
marginalising small tenants and dispossessing small holders of their land.
The resulting landlessness and poverty is forcing men to migrate to the urban
areas and the Middle East in search of wage employment. At the same time,
more men than women in near-landless households engage themselves in seasonal
agricultural labour, although women are increasingly participating in
agricultural wage labour. The burden of family survival has been shifting to
women. While national food supplies have been increasing in some countries,
like India and Pakistan, there is evidence of widespread food shortage on a
household level, especially amongst the poor. This has been exacerbated by
the customary food distribution patterns within the household, which
particularly deprive women and female children of adequate food, both
quantitatively and qualitatively. In those Asian countries where there has
not been a tradition of direct rights in land by women, this complicates the
problem of women and land, a problem rendered more severe by the land scarcity
in most countries (for example in many Indian states the average peasant
household plot is only one acre). In other parts of Asia, such as some parts
of Malaysia (e.g. Negri Sembilan), women have customarily had access to land
on equal or better terms than men. In others, women share land ownership
rights jointly with their husbands. In the former case, this right has been
eroded gradually. With increased poverty and landlessness women have either
lost their rights, or have found that their plots (of one-quarter to one-half
an acre) are much smaller in size than those of the men's.
The problem of land and women is especially relevant to the Caribbean
because of the high proportion of female household heads. Despite migration
of a large percentage of such women into urban centres, many still remain in
rural areas. The question of land takes on important dimensions because,
generally speaking, there has not been a tradition of direct access to land by
women, except among the petty traders who usually invested in land. Others
may have received land gifts from husbands or fathers, but these are a
minority. There are indications that as pressure on land mounts, these
opportunities may be curtailed unless land policies deliberately address
themselves to the female question.
The Caribbean does not face as critical a food shortage as Africa. Yet,
it seems that in certain countries a growing number of poorer households fail
to meet their nutritional requirements because of insufficient means to

- 39 -

purchase food supplies. In most countries, food sufficiency is met through
imports, but the cost of imported food is often too high for many female
household heads. Moreover, the countries' economies depend on agriculture;
increasing women's productivity will help provide both for women's cash
requirements and national needs for agricultural raw materials.

Rural Energy
There is a growing recognition that poor rural women's role in meeting
their families' basic needs, including fuel, is of critical importance to the
improvement of family welfare. As a result of deforestation, rising oil
prices, increasing population, and changes in land use and social organisation
that affect patterns of access to fuel resources, poor rural families face an
additional burden; the fuel needed to cook otherwise inedible staples, such as
rice, wheat, maize and legumes, is becoming increasingly expensive in many
areas in terms of time and/or cash. Since fuel collection and use in cooking
is typically part of women's unpaid household maintenance responsibilities,
resultant effects on the allocation of women's time, their need to earn
income, nutritional levels, agricultural productivity, and the environment are
frequently considerable. In addition, interventions which seek to increase
local energy supplies also sometimes have undesirable side effects on the
rural poor, especially women, by altering their access to food and fuel
producing resources. A preliminary study in Peru confirmed these concerns
(Skar, 1982).
An inter-regional ILO project on "Energy and Rural Women's Work",
supported by the Netherlands Government, has been exploring these effects and
attempting to incorporate into government planning and programmes the impact
of changing household fuel availabilities on poor rural women and their
families. A number of case studies are being carried out, including in Peru,
Mexico, Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal, India, Indonesia and Nepal. An innovative
methodology has been developed, using both sample surveys and in-depth
observation of households, integrating household labour allocation, fuel
supply and consumption, and nutritional aspects, and covering a year-long
period in several villages in order to capture seasonal and other variations.
Preliminary conclusions of the case studies confirm other ILO findings
on household labour allocation, that rural women tend to work longer hours
than men overall, with about half of their working hours devoted to essential
survival tasks such as fetching fuel and water, cooking and child care, which
are not generally considered "productive" labour. These household work
patterns and distribution need to be taken into account in planning

- 40 -

income-generating and employment projects for both men and women. With
respect to fuel collection, while it is true that women are mainly responsible
for household fuel gathering in many cases, these case studies have found that
children often play a large role in fuel collection (with negative effects in
some cases on school attendance), and that men may also play an important
role. Men are more likely to be involved in production of fuelwood for sale
than for household use, unless household fuel collection involves long
distances (and therefore animals or other transport), if large quantities of
fuel are gathered or purchased and stored, or if women are involved in highly
valued and essential wage-earning or subsistence production work. So the
research is serving to place the issue of fuel collection in context and in
Most household fuel is used in cooking, done by women. Any improvement
in the efficiency of existing cooking systems and stoves must therefore centre
on women, and take into account women's own frequently extensive knowledge of
stove design and construction, cooking fuels and needs. The case studies show
that time-saving, cost, smokelessness and convenience are often important
factors for women in a stove, with fuel-saving often of secondary importance.
Another important dimension that has come to the ILO's attention is the
importance of domestic environmental pollution. Pollutant levels in Third
World kitchens are often far beyond those permitted in industries, and there
is evidence for links with severe respiratory and eye diseases, factors which
tend to outweigh the utility of smoke in killing insects attacking roofs.
In many rural areas, families depend on forest resources for both
subsistence and cash needs. This dependence by local peoples on forests makes
them vulnerable to changes in the ecology or access produced by commercial
exploitation or government programmes. Poor rural families' welfare can often
be improved more by multi-product agroforestry, with raw materials produced
for processing for cash income, and fuel and food for subsistence as
complementary needs, rather than by traditional plantation reforestation.
Many small family industries such as brick-making, pottery and tiles use
large quantities of fuel, and potential for fuel savings is sometimes great in
this sector. Women participate especially in food processing, which is an
important source of income as well as a high energy user.
In some areas, shortages of cooking fuel have affected food consumption
and quality, especially as regards long-cooking traditional staples such as
beans. Possibilities for boiling water as well as eating nutritious staples
may be constrained. And changes in living habits with modernisation and
different work patterns have required different cooking habits for good

- 41 -

nutrition, which traditional fuels are unable to sustain adequately. Seasonal
variations and emergency food distribution such as in refugee situations often
create further stresses on nutrition, related to food and fuel availabilities.
These energy needs and concerns of rural women and their households need
to be introduced into national-level planning by incorporating these findings
and rural women's expertise into household fuel projects, as well as by
assisting organizations of the rural poor and women to solve these problems
through collective action. An important component of the research throughout
has been the active involvement of government agencies in the case studies,
and the next phase will include workshops at the national level and expert
missions to assist in the continued incorporation of results into policies and
programmes, and to develop follow-up actions at the grassroots and national
levels (Cecelski, 1984).
One kind of follow-up involves a project being supported by the World
Bank as a contribution of their energy sector programme in Ethiopia. Through
participatory research combined with stove testing, the aim is to determine a
realistic strategy for improving cooking efficiency and reducing the household
fuel burden.
Projects designed to meet basic energy needs in rural areas will
necessarily have to deal also with issues of agrarian reform, land
distribution, agricultural modernisation and access to resources generally.
The production of traditional fuels requires ownership of or access to land
for growing trees or gathering crop wastes and cattle or other animals which
provide dung. As these traditional fuels increasingly become monetarised and
in some rural areas commercial fuels such as kerosene become popular, the
ability to meet energy needs becomes a function of cash income, thus relating
to general employment issues as well.
Energy projects as part of integrated rural development should focus on
improving the lot of the poorest sections of the rural population as a major
objective. A high priority should be given to the creation of collective
employment, with active encouragement of small farmers' and rural workers'
organizations to enable the rural poor themselves to participate effectively
in the design and implementation of energy programmes. Without this
participation energy projects are unlikely to be successful or to benefit
lower income groups. Indeed, without active attention and involvement, energy
programmes could even worsen the relative or absolute position of the poor by
altering their access to previously communal resources, for example by turning
de facto communal-access forests into co-operative or even commercial tree
plantations, or by collecting "free" dung for use in private biogas plants.

- 42 -

Ongoing work in the ILO on participation and the rural poor and on rural
women has documented a number of successful examples of people's participation
in energy development. In most cases, participation is a key element in the
rural poor obtaining the benefits of improved energy supplies. In Peru,
campesino organizations are working with engineers to develop a suitable solar
thermal pump under their control. In the Chipko movement in India, women have
often led popular actions to protect trees from being cut by timber companies,
but have failed to take leadership positions due to their social position. In
West Bengal and Rajasthan, women's organizations are attempting to reclaim
wastelands for production of fuel and fodder.
The ILO expects to implement an innovative wasteland development project
in India which will combine many of the above elements enabling disadvantaged
women in rural areas to gain collective access to land held by authorities
(land reform commissions, departments of forestry, etc.) which is unsuitable
for basic grain production, but which the ILO has already been able to
demonstrate can be utilised for fuel, fodder, sericulture and medicinal herb
production. This exciting venture holds an enormous potential for rural
women's advancement and contribution to rural development.

- 43 -


Abdullah, Tahrunnessa, and Sondra Zeidenstein, 1982. Village women of
Bangladesh: Prospects for change, Women in Development, Vol. 4 (Oxford,
Pergamon Press), 246 pp.*

Ahmad, Zubeida, 1984. "Rural women and their work: Dependence and
alternatives for change", in International Labour Review (Geneva),
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-1983. Women workers in rural areas: Their struggle to organise, Seminar
Paper (Geneva, ILO), 33 pp.

-, 1980. "The plight of rural women: Alternatives for action", in
International Labour Review (Geneva), July-Aug., pp. 425-438.

-- (ed.), 1976. Land reform in Asia, with particular reference to
Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand, Working Paper (Geneva, ILO),

-, and Martha Loutfi, 1983. "Decently paid employment not more drudgery",
in Ceres (Rome), pp. 40-46.

Agarwal, Bina, 1981. Agricultural modernisation and Third World women:
Pointers from the literature and an empirical analysis, Working Paper
(Geneva, ILO), 133 pp.

Akande, Jadesola, 1981. Participation of women in rural development
(Nigeria), Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 64 pp.

Allaghi, Farida, 1981. Rural women in a resettlement project: The case of
Libya, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 122 pp.

Antunes F. de Oliveira, Evelina, and M.H. Machado de Souza, 1981. Trabalho
feminino no reflorestamento, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 23 pp.*

Arizpe, Lourdes, 1981. La participaci6n de la mujer en el empleo y el
desarrollo rural en America latina y el Caribe (Trabajo de sfntesis),
Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 38 pp.

-, and Josefina Aranda, 1981. Empleo agroindustrial y participaci6n de la
mujer en el desarrollo rural: Un studio de las obreras del cultivo de
exportaci6n de la fresa en Zamora, M4xico, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO),
38 pp.

de Barbieri, Teresita, 1983. Las unidades agrfcola-industriales para la
mujer campesina en Mexico: dos studios de caso, Technical Cooperation
Report (Geneva, ILO), 95 pp.

1 Note: Working Papers are mimeographed World Employment Programme research
working papers for restricted circulation. They are available in limited
quantities only.

- 44 -

Benerfa, Lourdes (ed.), 1982. Women and development: The sexual division of
labour in rural societies (New York, Praeger), 257 pp.

--, 1978. Reproduction, production and the sexual division of labour,
Working Paper (Geneva, ILO), 26p.

Bhatty, Zarina, 1981. The economic role and status of women in the beedi
industry in Allahabad, India, Publication No. 63 of the Social Science
Studies on International Problems (Saarbricken, Verlag Breitenbach), 97

Bose, Madhuri, Martha Loutfi and Shimwaayi Muntemba, 1984. Rural development
with women: Elements of success, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 28pp.

Brahme, Sulbha, 1981. The Gavli Dhangars in the wake of White revolution,
Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 94 pp.

Cecelski, Elizabeth, 1984. The rural energy crisis, women's work, and family
welfare: Perspectives and approaches to action, Working Paper (Geneva,
ILO), 142 pp.

Chatterji, Ruchira, 1984. Marginalisation and the induction of women into
wage labour: The case of Indian agriculture, Working Paper (Geneva, ILO),
50 pp.

Croll, Elisabeth, 1984. Changing patterns of rural women's employment,
production and reproduction in China, Working Paper (Geneva, ILO), 93 pp.

--, 1982. "The sexual division of labour in rural China," in Benerfa (ed.),

-1979. Women in rural development: The People's Republic of China (Geneva,
ILO), 61 pp. Also available in Thai.

Deere, Carmen Diana, and Magdalena Le6n de Leal, 1982a. Women in Andean
agriculture, Women, Work and Development, No. 4 (Geneva, ILO), 172 pp.

-1982b. "Peasant production, proletarianisation and the sexual division of
labour in the Andes", in Benerfa (ed.).

Desai, Rajani, 1982. Migrant labour and women: The case of Ratnagiri,
Working Paper (Geneva, ILO), 40 pp.

Dfaz Ronner, Lucila, 1981. Las mujeres asalariadas en los cultivos de
exportaci6n: El caso del Municipio de Ensenada, Baja California Norte,
M4xico, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 50 pp.

Eisold, Elizabeth, 1984. Young women workers in export industries: The case
of the semi-conductor industry in Southeast Asia, Working Paper (Geneva,
ILO), 98 pp.

FernAndez, Blanca, 1981. Los efectos de la reform agraria peruana en la
condici6n de la mujer: El caso de dos CAPs del valle del Chira en Piura,
Peru, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 48 pp.

Hall, Eve, 1982. Income-generating projects for women refugees in Somalia,
Technical Co-operation Report (Geneva, ILO), 17 pp.

- 45 -

Heyzer Fan, Noeleen, 1982. "From rural subsistence to an industrial peripheral
work force: An examination of female Malaysian migrants and capital
accumulation in Singapore", in Benerfa (ed.).

--, 1981. A preliminary study of women rubber estate workers in peninsular
Malaysia, Working Paper (Geneva, ILO), 45 pp.

ILO, 1984. Identification of successful projects for improving the employment
conditions of rural women: Summaries of the African, Asian and Pacific
cases, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 107 pp.

ILO, 1981. Women in rural development: Critical issues (Geneva), 51 pp.

Kelkar, Govind, 1981. The impact of the Green Revolution on women's work
participation and sex roles, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 110 pp.

Kurian, Rachel, 1982. Women workers in the Sri Lanka plantation sector, Women,
Work and Development, No. 5 (Geneva, ILO), 136 pp. Also available in

--, 1981. The position of women workers in the plantation sector
in Sri Lanka, Working Paper (Geneva, ILO), 180 pp.

Lee Peluso, Nancy, 1981. Survival strategies of rural women traders or a
woman's place is in the market: Four case studies from north-western
Sleman in the special region of Yogyakarta, Working Paper (Geneva, ILO),
122 pp.*

Longhurst, Richard, 1982. Rural development planning and the sexual division
of labour: A case study of a Moslem Hausa village in northern Nigeria,
Working Paper (Geneva, ILO), 36 pp.*

--, 1980. "Resource allocation and the sexual division of labour: A case
study of a Moslem Hausa village in Northern Nigeria", in Benerfa (ed.).

Loutfi, Martha, 1983a. Rural women: Unequal partners in development (Geneva,
ILO, 4th ed.), 81 pp. Also available in Thai.

--, 1983b. Toward strategies for improving the employment conditions of rural
women, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 18 pp.

Medrano, Diana, 1981. Efectos de los process de cambio social sobre la
condici6n de la mujer rural: El caso de las obreras floristas de la
agro-industria exportadora de flores de la Sabana de BogotA, Seminar paper
(Geneva, ILO), 35 pp.

Mernissi, Fatima, 1981. Developpement capitalist et perceptions des femmes
dans la socift6 arabo-musulmane: Une illustration des paysannes du Gharb,
Maroc, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 92 pp.

Mhatre, Sharayu, 1981. Multiple transitions for tribal women: A study of
tribal women of Palghar Taluka, Maharashtra, India, Seminar Paper (Geneva,
ILO), 137 pp.

Mies, Maria, 1982a. Housewives produce for the world market: The lace makers
of Narsapur (London, Zed Press), 196 pp.

- 46 -

-1982b. "The dynamics of the sexual division of labour and integration of
rural women in the world market", in Benerfa (ed.).

-, with K. Lalitha and K. Kumari, 1984. Indian women in subsistence and
agricultural labour, Working Paper (Geneva, ILO), 243 pp.

La mujer y el desarrollo rural en America latina y el Caribe. 1983. Informe
y conclusions del Seminario Regional Latino americano de la OIT sobre la
Mujer y el Desarrollo Rural, PAtzcuaro, Mexico, 24-28 de agosto de 1981
(Geneva, ILO), 82 pp.

Muntemba, Shimwaayi, 1983. Initiatives for improving employment conditions
of rural women: Illustrations and lessons from the field, Seminar Paper
(Geneva, ILO), 17 pp.

Muttreja, Poonam, 1983. Potentially viable income-generating activities for
refugees in Somalia, Technical Co-operation Report (Geneva, ILO), May, 114

Nene, Daphne Sbongile, 1981. A survey on African women petty traders and
self employed in town and country in South Africa, Seminar Paper (Geneva,
ILO), 89 pp.

Omvedt, Gail, 1981. Effects of agricultural development on the status of
women, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 53 pp.

Palmer, Ingrid, 1977. "Rural women and the basic-needs approach to
development", in International Labour Review (Geneva), Jan.-Feb., pp.

--, 1976. Rural poverty in Indonesia with special reference to
Java, Working Paper (Geneva, ILO), 30 pp.*

Paranjape, P.V., V. Kanhere, N. Sathe, N. Kulkarni and S. Gothoskar, 1981.
Grass roots self reliance in Shramik Sanghatana, Dhulia District, India,
Working Paper (Geneva, ILO), 64 pp.*

Phongpaichit, Pasuk, 1982. From peasant girls to Bangkok masseuses, Women,
Work and Development, No. 2 (Geneva, ILO), 80 pp.

Report of the Asian and Pacific Regional Workshop on Strategies for Improving
the Employment Conditions of Rural Women, 1984, Kuala Lumpur, 14-18
November 1983 (Geneva, ILO), 81 pp.

Report of the Consultative Workshop on Successful Projects for Improving
Employment Conditions of Rural Women, 1984, Harare, Zimbabwe, 5-9
September 1983 (Geneva, ILO), 20 pp.

Resources, power and women, 1984. Proceedings of the ILO African and Asian
Interregional Workshop on Strategies for Improving the Employment
Conditions of Rural Women, Arusha, 20-25 August 1984 (Geneva, ILO), 90 pp.

Rural development and women in Africa, 1984. Report of the ILO Tripartite
African Regional Seminar, Rural Development and Women, Dakar, Senegal,
15-19 June 1981 (Geneva, ILO), 157 pp.

- 47 -

Rural development and women in Asia, 1982. Proceedings and conclusions of the
ILO Tripartite Asian Regional Seminar, Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra, India,
6-11 April 1981 (Geneva, ILO), 88 pp.

Rural women workers in Asia, 1982. Report of a workshop at the International
Centre for Advanced Technical and Vocational Training, Turin, 30 November
4 December 1981 (Geneva, ILO), 105 pp.

Ryan, Felix A., 1983. Post harvest employment possibilities in Jalayaqsi
(Somalia), Technical Co-operation Report (Geneva, ILO), Dec., 53 pp.

Savand, Marie-Angelique, 1983. Les projects pour les femmes en milieu rural
au Senegal, Technical Co-operation Report (Geneva, ILO), 139 pp.

Sen, Gita, 1982. "Women workers and the Green Revolution", in Benerfa (ed.).

Shaheed, Farida, 1981. Migration and its effects on women in the villages of
provenance, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 60 pp.

Silva de Rojas, Alicia Eugenia, 1981. Efectos del empleo de mano de obra
femenina en la industrial de las flores: Un studio de caso en Colombia,
Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 81 pp.

Skar, Sarah Lund, 1982. Fuel availability, nutrition and women's work in
highland Peru: Three case studies from contrasting Andean communities,
Working Paper (Geneva, ILO), 94 pp.

Spindel, Cheywa, 1981. Capital, familiar y mujer en la evoluci6n de la
producci6n rural de base familiar, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 39 pp.

The struggle toward self-reliance of organised, resettled women in the
Philippines, 1982. Working Paper (Geneva, ILO), 29 pp.

Tadesse, Zenebeworke, 1982. "The impact of land reform on women: The case of
Ethiopia", in Benerfa (ed.).

Traore, Aminata, 1981. L'acces des femmes ivoiriennes aux resources les
femmes et la terre en pays Adioukrou, Seminar Paper (Geneva, ILO), 52 pp.

Urdang, Stephanie, forthcoming. The impact of rural transformation on peasant
women in Mozambique.

Young, Kate, 1982. "The creation of a relative surplus population: A case
study from Mexico", in Beneria (ed.).

Youssef, Nadia, and Carol Hetler, 1984. Rural households headed by women: A
priority concern for development, Working Paper (Geneva, ILO), 123 pp.

* out of print

ISBN 92-2-103949-8

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