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The Feminization of Agricultural Labour in India with a Case Study of the Semi-Arid Region of Andhra Pradesh: A Means of Empowerment or a Method of Domination?

This paper was supervised by Dr. Marcus Taylor from the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen’s University.

With the general shift of men turning to out-migration work in times of economic disparity, women in rural India, specifically in the region of Andhra Pradesh, are forced to step in and fill the gap in agricultural labour left by migrating men. This phenomenon, coupled with the increased desire for female agricultural labourers – because of their tolerance of low wages – has led to a significant increase in the feminization of agricultural labour in India since the 1990s. While neoliberal writers argue that the increasingly feminized workforce of agricultural labour in rural India is largely demand-driven – both by male-out migration and thus the freeing up of agricultural work for women, I will argue, in accordance with the Marxist-feminist school of thought, that the increased feminization of agricultural labour in rural Andhra Pradesh does not reflect rural prosperity, but in fact is the “consequence of increasing pauperization among the small peasantry” (Garikipati 2008:630). This paper will explore the debate of whether or not the feminization of the agricultural workforce in rural Andhra Pradesh has accelerated female independence and empowerment in both the private (household) and public spheres. This locality study will thus add to a critical Marxist-feminist perspective of the feminization of agricultural labour in India generally, and the semi-arid region of Andhra Pradesh specifically, while raising the question of who truly benefits form the feminization of the agricultural workforce.