02 October 2014

Women, Environment, and Sustainable Development

 A Study of Women among Sumi Community of Nagaland - Page 5

Table 2. Significance of the New Ecological Paradigm

Women in Times of Environment Deterioration

In  the  context  of  the  present  study,  sexual  division  of  labor perpetuated by  the patriarchal setting push women to become the ultimate victim of the environment degradation. Having no
control  and  power  over  land  and  property  ownership contributes to their plight. The destruction of the environment clearly poses grievous threat to the marginalized population of  the  world  who  are  heavily  dependent  on  their  immediate environment for their survival, but with the maximum impact of  the  destruction  of  natural  resources  on  women.  (Anil Agarwal, in Guha’s 1994). As the environment degrades,  their survival  needs  becomes  increasingly  difficult  to  collect  and
women have to invest extra ordinary amount of time foraging for fodder, fuel, vegetation, water besides her usual activities as house-keeper,  caretaker,  agricultural  works  and  animal husbandry.

Agro-pastoralism  as  their mainstay,  every  activity is connected to the forest or the natural resources and therefore women  face  dire  consequences  of  environment  degradation
especially with regard to water, fodder, fuel, and food security.

In  the  field  area,  the  recent  years  witness  the development  of  highway  road  initiated  by  the  male  folk  to connect the village to other neighboring villages, nearby towns and other part of the state had cut off all the water pipes which were connected to almost every house in the village. The source of water connection was derived from a natural water sources from  the  mountains  which  was  fresh  and  plentiful.  But  after the  water  pipes  were  cut  off  in  the  construction  process  they had  no  other  source  but  to  wholly  depend  on  rain  water  for household  needs.  Big  plastic  tanks  are  installed  to  store  the rain water for dry season but the village has not developed in terms of rain water harvesting which pose a big challenge for women  in  absence  of  rain.  The  stored  water  remains  hardly sufficient  for  a  household  of  7  to  10  members.  Women  had  to

walk a long distance of 3-4 km down the vertical slopes to reach the  stone  caves  to  collect  water  for  household  needs.

Development programme without inclusion of women’s opinion coupled with environmental crisis puts extra burden on women weakening their health conditions in the process.
Pig rearing emerges as one good source of economy and nutrition  of  the  local.  Every  occasion,  festivals  or  cultural celebration ends with a grand feast with pig meat occupying the central  place  at  the  table.  It  also  has  ritual  or  cultural significance  of  reinforcing  social  solidarity  in  times  of celebration  and  festival;  an  act  to  rekindle  old  relationship  or an act to initiate new relationship over eating. Considering its importance and significance, pigs are reared in large numbers in every household for their own use as well as for commercial purposes. Generally looked after by women folk although man do  give  a  hand  at  times  in  handling  feed  or  cleaning  but  the greater  part  of  the  work  falls  on  women   such  as  collecting fodder from deep jungles, cooking, cleaning pig sty, bathing the pigs, feeding etc. Ensuring fodder is not an easy job for women because  they  have  to  careful  in  identifying  edible  plants  or choosing  the  kind  of  vegetations  that  enhances  the  growth  of pigs while man generally have no knowledge of fodder exception
of few common ones.

On normal days women spend about 3 to 4 hours  a  day  in  foraging  for  fodder  alone  which  they  have become  accustomed  to.  But  in  times  of  scarcity  of  vegetation especially  during  the  autumn  season  when  green  vegetation dries out, women foraged deep into the jungles with their mid day meals in search of fodder increasing their foraging time to 6 to 8 hours  a day. With the good source of income it generates, pig  rearing  has  become  rampant  even  among  affluent household which has resulted in severe competition over fodder, space  and  boundary.  As  a  result,    poor  women  from  farming household  without  lands  are  pushed  to  the  wall  as  they  are stopped even from collecting edible weeds in other’s field which was previously possible.

Deforestation also leads to diminishing of vegetation that was once plentiful and healthy. Irony of this situation  is  that  although  women  work  to  their  bones  to  look after the animals but the finances regarding the transaction of selling of pigs are handled by the men folk. The penetration of modern  forces  coupled  with  cash  economy  is  affecting  the relationship  between  men  and  women  as  while  men  have become more involved with the cash economy, women continue to deal with the non-monetized, subsistence based economy of the household. (Anil Agarwal, in Guha’s 1994).

Days after days, the routine repeat itself, women continue to work extra hours throughout  the  week  except  on  Sunday,  else  their  fuel  and fodder  collection  time  increases.  Firewood  meant  still  more work and another tiring journey. When women collect firewood they only go for dried branches which had fallen off and so trees are  hardly  deforested  for  their  use.  Yet  they  continue  to  face constraints in the face of private ownership of land where entry even  to  collect  dry  twigs  are  denied.

Shifting  cultivation, deforestation,  concept  of  private  property  and  other environmental conditions in addition to sexual division of labor which  expects  women  to  ensure  these  essential  needs  creates greater hardships in their day to day lives. As a result there is no  scope  of  improvement,  recreation  and  self-maintenance  in terms  of  nutrition,  healthcare,  etc  and  many  women  opined that  stretching,  bending,  walking  over  the  long  distance,  and foraging  hills  and  mountains  has  resulted  in  the  acute  body ache, swelling and pain in the knee joint, back ache etc which never seems to get better because even if  they take a day off, they  have  to  resume  it  the  next  day  and  undergo  the  same process as such one woman add that ‘there is hardly any time for  hospital  or  healthcare,  and  for  that  we  have  to  go  out  of village which is time consuming as well as travelling requires finance, and moreover these body pain are often overlooked, we have other major problem in life’.

Continue Reading Next Page

No comments:

Post a Comment