Rural women present real-life stories that break gender stereotypes

Fast-talking and animated in her expression, Maheshwari had the audience in splits as she recounted her travails of her experiments with cooking. “Every time it is burnt food, you know it is my work. I have now given up and handed over to my husband, who does such a good job with the cooking,” she says “especially as I get busy with my work in the Village Knowledge Centre.” Maheshwari, who hails from a fishing village in Puducherry, was among eight women from different villages who have seen change in their routine lives, due to technology, innovation and the support of their husbands. The event, organized by the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, on “Technological Empowerment of Women in Family Farms” on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof.  M S Swaminathan, spoke about the need for engendering national programmes and laws including the NREGA. “Very often we speak about the physical labour and the drudgery of women. There is need to recognize the brain, their intellectual contribution of women beyond the  physical labour.” Providing technology and skills to make their work productive and time-efficient would also lead to more leisure for women.All the 8 women who presented personal life stories work in agricultural or fishing communities and spoke of how skill empowerment in non-traditional roles brought about changes in gender relations in their lives. Dr Ajay Parida, Executive Director, MSSRF and Dr Nitya Rao, Professor, Gender and Development, University of East Anglia also spoke on the occasion.