The toughest job in the world
“She gets up before the sun has burned off the morning mist, lights
the fire and prepares breakfast. Then the goats, chickens and
the cow needs to be let out. When the children have been helped
getting ready for school and have skipped off up the stony path
that links the low, mud-built houses to the road, she rolls up the
mattresses from the floor and sweeps it. Then she takes a large
plastic bottle and walks more than a kilometre to a village where
there is a well. She comes back with it full, in lively discussion
with her neighbour who she met at the well. Both their husbands
have left the village and the burning question is whether they will
be able to find a job in town. They also discuss who in the village
will have time to clean their little church before Sunday.
By now the sun is high in the sky and the heated air trembles
above the red earth. She ties a colourful scarf around her head,
picks up her hoe and sets off again, this time to the family’s
small fields. Maize is growing in one field and beans and lentils
in the other. She observes that it has not rained as much
as it should have and that the weeds appear to be doing better
than the maize in the drought. Resolutely she hoes away at the
thistles and other weeds, takes a brief break to eat the maize
porridge she has bought with her, and then continues to work
until the shadows grow long.
The walk home seems long after her day’s work, but more
work is waiting at the house. Her oldest daughter is sent off
to gather the animals together and she takes a basket of dirty
clothes down to the stream to wash. On her way home she drops
in on her parents-in-law. Her father-in-law is ill and stays in
bed most of the time. She promises to speak to a local NGO to
see if they will pay for transport for him to the hospital in the
town; he has not seen a doctor for a very long time.
When she gets home she lights the fire and prepares the
evening meal; rice with onions and a vegetable similar to spinach.
After dinner she washes up and then sits down on a wooden
bench outside the house. A dog is barking at a neighbouring
house. The sun has disappeared and the children have closed
their homework books. In the gathering darkness they see lights
turned on in the houses by the road, but electricity has not yet
reached them. After a short rest it is bedtime, tomorrow will
be another, hard-working day.”
– [Swedish Cooperative Centre] –
So do you still think there is a tougher job in the world than this?
Agricultural sector has for several years formed the backbone of Uganda’s economy contributing approximately 37% of Gross Domestic product (GDP).
Since time immemorial, the ‘WORK’ of an African woman has never been quantified into monetary just because it is considered domestic and untaxable.
In the Agricultural sector alone, It is estimated that women do 85% of the planting, 85% of the weeding, 55% of land preparation and 98% of all food processing. However, decisions to market are usually made by men (70%), or are made jointly (15%). In rural areas, it is estimated that women’s workloads considerably exceed those of men according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
As the hunger crisis in Somalia continues to take up most of the world’s attention, the time would not have been better to refocus attention on how to support the over 700 million woman/girl farmers feeding the world.
IFAD further states that agriculture which is the main occupation of women in Uganda with 72% of all employed women and 90% of all rural women working in agriculture, why is this?
I believe that there are several reasons to this concern. Critical and yet lacking is the issue of the unclear gender sensitive agricultural policies documents and data. Even where they are present, women in Uganda do not have sufficient power to Influence some of these policies in their favour.
The continued school dropouts in are affecting the long term knowledge resource for Women farmers in Uganda. Coupled with a limited access to appropriate resources, technologies, markets and land, agricultural productivity thus has dwindled, if not remained
In the agricultural sector where division of labour has for long, worked to literally strain women farmers, the situation is gradually changing. First with governments affirmative actions and also the gender based community education which has worked to harmonize labour divisions. Another government initiative is the Plan to Modernize Agricultural production (PAM).
Swedish Cooperative Centre (SCC), a Swedish NGO seeks to even harmonize these divisions to benefit small scale farmers even further. They support poor women and men to enable them to increase their incomes, improve their living conditions, defend their rights, and organize themselves.
I I was privileged to document some of their projects in Kasese district, western Uganda dealing in small scale farming.
Ivan a teacher by profession is a practicing farmer, naturally from his family background, He realizes that family responsibilities are meant to be shared if Prosperity is to be achieved.
From digging, cooking to washing, Ivan tries his best to take off part of burden from his wife. The pictures thus best describe the changing family roles that have slowly easened, call it the “toughest job” in the world for a woman.
It’s one huge step from the African perspective.