by Zhang Huan

The Feminization of Agricultural Labor is Significant

Zigen has been focusing on female development since its establishment. In the past 30 years of rural practice and observation, rural women, especially those in poverty-stricken areas, are taking on more and more social roles and agricultural labor. Married women have occupied most of the rural labor, and have undertaken agricultural production activities such as land ploughing, sowing, fertilizing, watering, spraying pesticides, harvesting, etc. Some scholars have summarized this trend as “the feminization of agricultural labor”. “With the development of industrialization and urbanization, the rural male labor force has transitioned  to non-agricultural jobs, and the feminization of agricultural main labor has become increasingly prominent, showing that women have become the main population in rural communities” (Yan Honghong etc., 2017). According to the statistic of the second national agricultural report in 2006, among the agricultural employees, the proportion of male labor decreased to 46.8%, and the proportion of female labor was 53.2%. The “feminization” of agricultural labor has become a mainstream. Before writing this article, I specifically looked for photos of women photographed by Zigen in various places. Basically, such trends and status quo have been confirmed in the photos.

Even under such a trend, women do not fully own the lands, production tools and production materials. Major production decisions are still made by those “absent” males. Some people believe that this is an illusion which female labor merely exceed the male laboring terms of statistical numbers instead of the actual “feminization of agricultural labor force”. Nevertheless, I agree to the saying of the feminization of the agricultural labor force.

Brief Analysis of the Feminization of Agricultural Labor

Dating back to the past, the social status of men and women in agricultural labor has gone through the period that men plowed and women wove in a traditional agricultural society, and to the period in which men and women both plowed in the big communal society, and then to the contemporary status quo in which male labor force has become a floating population and women occupy most of the agricultural labor force. Some also called this family cooperation mode “men working and female plowing.” Even though the labor input of pure physical strength has decreased with upgrading of the agricultural techniques over these years, poverty-stricken areas still have their own limitations from climate, topography, soil, cultivated area, economic reasons, etc. Lacking the production tools whose purpose is modernization and liberating physical strength leads to less significant changes in physical input of rural labor.

黎光村妇女小组何耀英的母亲和女儿一家三代人参与混农林种植  
Three generations participating in agroforestry planting- Ms. He Yaoying’s mother and daughter, women’s group of Liguang Village

There are many reasons for the feminization of the agricultural labor force analyzed from different perspectives. From the perspective of demography, this is because male labor outflow is greater than the female labor force, which demonstrates a phenomenon or a result rather than a real reason. There are also many reasons for the transition in the gender differences on rural labor. He Jun, Li Qing, and Zhang Yichi believe that it’s due to family division (2010) while Yang Xiaoyan believes that it is caused by gender discrimination (2008). Some scholars believed that it’s caused by the low cultural quality of the female labor force. Those who believe that “lands in China are less, the population is high, the labor productivity of small-scale agriculture is low, and the income of agricultural workers is far lower than that of the industrial and commercial workers” mainly think that it’s due to productivity and economic forces, resulting in rural labor, especially male labor, migrating from the countryside to the city and jobs shifting from agricultural to non-agricultural ones. Besides, the deep reasons for the structural and institutional nature of the feminization of the agricultural labor force are worthy of further exploration.

Rural Women’s Physical and Mental Responsibility Bears Unbearable Weight

Moreover, under the trend of feminization of agricultural labor, women participate in agricultural production while traditional social roles of women never changed but stubbornly accompanied the shift. Women still have to do laundry, cook, do housework, prepare all daily needs, take care of parents, educate children and build village infrastructure, all of which fall on the shoulders of women. Regardless of whether the women are young or old, they are limited with those sayings that “if your cooking skill is not good enough, are you still a woman?”, “If you can’t take good care of children/the elderly/homes, are you still a woman?”, “If you can’t do laundry well, are you still a woman?”, “If you don’t know how to plough, are you still a woman?”, “Don’t dress yourself with such an exposing clothes”……etc. This kind of value judgment about women and “good” women make rural women barely able to bear  the pressure.

The bodily pressure can be observed and spoken about, but mental pressure is difficult to observe and speak about. The male labor force flows outwards and goes out to work. The couples have less chance to reunite and cannot give enough support to each other. The relationship between husband and wife is tense and the family structure is unbalanced. In some areas, rural women even commit suicide by drinking pesticides. In poor rural areas, due to inconvenient transportation, inadequate water supply, poor medical conditions, and the influence of some unhealthy customs, many women don’t have good health conditions, and in some places there are still early marriages and early pregnancies.

“Women have little gynaecological health knowledge and awareness. Their health knowledge often comes from the elders. In addition to the traditional concepts, rural women are often ashamed to be sick and cannot correctly educate their children about adolescence and gender. Most families do not have bathing facilities. Many women do not have the habit of brushing their teeth and drink water directly from uncovered wells or have unheated and unsterilized water. The sanitary conditions of their kitchens are extremely terrible. Women do not know enough about gynecological diseases, and some of them even regard gynecological diseases as back pains or stomach aches. Even though women know that they are sick, they will think of the difficult home economics and delay to see a doctor, which results in worsening illness.” (Zhang Yunfei, 2017)

Rural Women Receive Insufficient Support

In poverty-stricken areas, many burdens of responsibility fall onto women, which makes them have less leisure time to relieve stress. Women take enormous responsibilities for society and family, but their support in marriage, family, child education, re-education, employment guidance, land systems, political participation, legal protection, medical services, reproductive health are not sufficient. Under the trend of feminization of agricultural labor, women should have played a greater role in improving agricultural productivity and protecting agricultural sustainable development. However, in the “Social Development-Development of Health Care” section, the “China’s Early 21st Century Action Plan for Sustainable Development” jointly drafted by many ministries and commissions in 2003, only one line mentions “to strengthen the prevention and healthcare work for women and children”. The 2015 National Agricultural Sustainable Development Plan (2015-2030) policy guidance document doesn’t mention a word regarding the role of women.

Rural Women Should Be Given Deserved Opportunities And Status In Social Development

The development of rural women has always been closely related to the “three rural issues”. In comparison with men, women are less likely to have equal opportunities in development and are more likely to be in a weaker position. In 2011, the “China Women’s Development Program (2011-2020)” issued by China as a basic national policy for the implementation of equality between men and women, ensuring women’s legitimate rights and interests, optimizing women’s development environment, improving women’s social status, promoting women’s equality in exercising democratic rights in accordance with the law, and participating in the economic and social development, equal access to the guiding documents of reform and development achievements, and making clear arrangements and regulations on seven areas inclusive of health, education, economics, decision-making and management, social security, environment, and law.

The 193 member states of the 2015 United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development formally adopted 17 sustainable development goals, of which gender equality is an important development goal. The other ten goals cover a wide range including environmental protection, healthy lifestyles, quality education, poverty eradication, hunger elimination, clean energy, etc. The fulfillment of these development goals is inseparable from the broad and effective participation of women. Existing research and practice have also proven that in the work of reducing poverty or poverty alleviation, supporting women plays a key role in the poverty alleviation of the entire family and the healthy growth of their children.

Zigen Has Always Emphasized The Importance of Women’s Issues and Taking Actions to Promote Change

From the very beginning, Zigen encouraged women to learn mathematics and reading, and later set up women’s centers and sister groups in the Miao villages to hold public activities, increase women’s participation in village affairs, and increase economic income and enhance mutual support. In recent years, Zigen has supported women’s reproductive health training, women’s economic cooperation groups, elderly weaving teams, and women’s participation in agroforestry ecological planting projects, always emphasizing the importance of support for women. With the belief that supporting girls and women in education is the most effective investment, it has extremely direct and far-reaching significance for reducing women’s trafficking, reducing the number of children born, children’s health, increasing women’s income and promoting gender equality.

从“男耕女织”到“妇女包揽” 贫困农村妇女角色地位现状

张焕

农业劳动力女性化趋势显著

滋根从成立开始就关注女性的发展,三十年来一线的乡村实践和观察中发现,农村妇女,尤其是贫困地区的农村妇女正在承担越来越多的社会角色和农业劳动,“大部分已婚妇女挑起了农村剩余劳动力的‘大梁’,承担起翻地、播种、施肥、浇水、打农药、收割等农业生产活动[1]”,已经有学者将其概括为“农业劳动力的女性化趋势[2]”。“伴随着工业化和城市化的发展,农村男性劳动力实行非农转移,农业主劳力的女性化日益凸显,女性已成为农村社区中的主要人群[3]”(闫红红等,2017)。2006年第二次全国农业普查的数据显示,在农业从业人员中,男性劳动力比重下降为46.8%,女性劳动力比重为53.2%,农业劳动力“女性化”已经成为一大“主流”。构思这篇文章前专门找来滋根在各地走访中拍摄妇女照片,基本上这样的趋势和现状在照片中也得到了印证。

然而女性在这样的趋势下并不完全享有土地、生产工具和生产资料的经营使用劝,重大的生产决策仍然是“不在场”的男性主导,有人认为这只是一种假象,女性劳动力只是在数量上超过了男性,并非实质上的“农业女性化”。所以笔者比较认同的是农业劳动力女性化的表述。

简析农业劳动力女性化

时间脉络往前延伸,农业劳动中男女地位经历了传统农业社会的男耕女织,到大公社时期的男女同耕,再到当下的男性劳动力外移成为流动人口、妇女几乎包揽所有的农业劳动,或称作“男工女耕”的家庭分工模式。虽说多年整体农业技术取得了进步,纯粹体力劳动投入减少,但在贫困地区,受限于气候、地势、土壤、耕种面积、经济原因等,无法投入现代化、以解放生产力为目的生产工具,农业体力劳动的付出并未出现实质性的变化。

农业劳动力女性化的原因有很多基于不同视角的分析,人口学角度认为农业劳动力女性化是农业男性劳动力外流大于女性劳动力引起的,这只是现象或者结果,并非真正原因。关于农村劳动力转移的性别差异形成的原因也有很多文献已涉及, 比如何军、李庆、张姝弛认为是家庭分工引起的 (2010),而杨小燕认为是性别歧视造成(2008),还有学者认为是女性劳动力文化素质低引起。持“我国人多地少,小农经济劳动生产力低下,农业劳动者收入远远低于工商业劳动者收入”这种观点则认为主要是生产力和经济诱因,造成农村劳动者尤其是男性劳动力纷纷外出打工和经商,从农村流入城市、从农业转移到非农业。除此之外,关于造成农业劳动力女性化趋势很多结构性、制度性的深层原因有待进一步挖掘。

农村妇女身心承担难以承受之重

然而,在农业劳动力女性化的趋势下,女性在参与农业生产的同时,传统的社会角色顽固地伴随着女性从未转移,如:洗衣煮饭家务劳动、全家衣食住行、照顾老小、教育子女、村庄基础设施建设等,都落在了女性的肩上。无论年轻年长,被加以“饭都煮不好,还算女人吗?”、“娃/老人/家都照顾不好,还算女人吗?”、“衣服都不会做,还算女人吗?”、“田都不会种,还算女人吗?”、“穿成这样子不守妇道”……诸如此类关于女人、好女人各种不怀好意的价值判断,让农村妇女担负起难以承受之重。

贵州榕江高岜村妇女种植生态西瓜
Women from Gaopa Village in Rongjiang, Guizhou plant watermelons

身体承担的压力是可以看得见、说得出来的,但内心压力是难以被人发现、说不出来的。男性劳动力向外流动,出去打工,夫妻聚少离多相互不能给到足够的支持,夫妻关系与代际关系紧张,家庭结构失衡。有的地区还存在不少农村妇女喝农药自杀的现象[4]。在贫困的农村地区,因为交通不便、水源不足、医疗条件差,加上一些不良风俗习惯的影响,很多妇女健康卫生状况不佳,有的地方还存在一些早婚早孕的现象。

“妇女对妇科保健知识了解甚少,卫生意识差,她们的保健知识往往来自长辈,加上受传统观念束缚,农村妇女有病往往羞于启齿,不能正确对孩子进行青春期和性别方面的教育。绝大部分家庭没有洗浴条件,很多妇女没有刷牙的习惯,饮用水直接取露天水井或者没有经过加热消毒的水,家庭厨房的卫生条件极差。妇女们对妇科疾病了解不足,她们有的会把妇科疾病单纯理解为腰痛或胃痛,很多妇女即使知道自己患病,但是考虑到困难的家庭经济她们会一拖再拖,导致病情越来越加重。”(张云飞,2017)

农村妇女得到的支持远远不够

在贫困农村地区,众多责任加诸于妇女,使得她们几乎没有闲暇生活,也没有足够缓解压力的途径。妇女承受着巨大的社会责任和家庭责任,但她们在婚姻家庭、亲子教育、再教育、就业指导、土地制度、政治参与、法律保障、医疗服务、生殖健康等方面得到的支持是远远不够的。在农业劳动力女性化的趋势下,女性在提高农业生产力、保护农业可持续发展方面本应可以发挥更大的作用,但2003年多部委联合制定的《中国21世纪初可持续发展行动纲要》只在“社会发展-发展卫生事业”部分仅一行文字提到要“加强妇女儿童的预防保健工作”,2015年《全国农业可持续发展规划(2015—2030年)》政策指导性文件也只字未提女性在其中的角色地位。

应当给予农村妇女发展中应有的机会和地位

一直以来,农村妇女的发展问题与“三农问题”密切相关。较之于男性,妇女在发展过程中更少地获得同等机会,更容易处于弱势地位。2011年发布的《中国妇女发展纲要(2011-2020年)》作为实行男女平等基本国策,保障妇女合法权益,优化妇女发展环境,提高妇女社会地位,推动妇女平等依法行使民主权利,平等参与经济社会发展,平等享有改革发展成果的指导性文件,从健康、教育、经济、决策和管理、社会保障、环境、法律等七个领域做了明确的部署和规定。

2015年联合国可持续发展峰会193个成员国正式通过17个可持续发展目标,其中性别平等是重要的发展目标。其他十余项发展目标广泛涉及环境保护、健康生活方式、优质教育、消除贫困、消除饥饿、清洁能源等方面,而这些发展目标的实现,均离不开女性广泛和有效的参与。既有研究与实践也证明,在减低贫困或者扶贫的工作中,支持妇女对于整个家庭的脱贫及子女的健康成长都起到关键性的作用。

滋根始终重视妇女问题,用行动促进改变

滋根从早期的妇女扫盲鼓励妇女算数认字,到后来赋权妇女,在苗族村寨成立妇女中心、姐妹小组开展公共活动,提高妇女参与村庄事务,通过刺绣增加经济收入并增进相互支持,到近些年支持妇女生殖健康培训、妇女经济合作小组、老年织布小组、妇女参与混农林生态种植项目,一直都非常重视对妇女的支持。深信从教育方面支持女孩和妇女是最有效的投入,对减少妇女拐卖、降低生育子女数、儿童健康、增加妇女收入、促进男女平等起着极为直接和深远的意义。


[1] 农业劳动力结构问题:“老龄化+女性化+知识水平低”,土地论坛。

[2] “在农业剩余劳动力向非农行业转移过程中女性劳动力非农化转移滞后于男性,妇女逐渐成为农业生产的主要劳动力的现象”(姚德超、汪超,2012)。

农业从业劳动力中女新老动力超过男性劳动力的状态(文华成,2014)。

[3] 闫红红、郭燕平、古学斌,《合作经济、集体劳动与农村妇女——一个华南村落的乡村旅舍实践案例》,《妇女研究论丛》,2017年第六期。

[4] 参考吴飞 《浮生取义:对华北某县自杀现象的文化解读》、《自杀作为中国问题》、《自杀与美好生活》。

妇女生殖健康培训

农村妇女健康卫生知识讲座/培训,为了加强妇女的健康和自我保健意识,减少妇科疾病,促进妇女健康,养成良好的个人卫生习惯,同时让妇女教育子女避免早婚、早孕等。

在雷山,我们特别邀请了原雷山县妇幼保健站的退休医生余跃芬,她通过妇女生殖器官剖析图向农村妇女深入细致地讲解有关妇女生理、卫生和健康等方面的知识,还传授了许多生活小常识。在榕江,经过调查,我们找到榕江县人民医院妇产科龙医生担任主讲,值得一提的是龙医生也是高岜村人,而且从小学至大学都曾得到滋根的资助,她是村子里屈指可数的大学生之一,既懂得高岜村苗话,又有关于妇女健康方面的经验,这次为高岜村妇女提供妇女健康培训讲座她也非常愿意参与。

Women’s Reproductive Health Training

The purpose of the healthcare lectures/training for rural women is to strengthen women’s health and self-care awareness, reduce gynecological diseases, improve women’s health, develop good personal hygiene habits, and let women educate their children to avoid early marriage and early pregnancy.

In Leishan, we specifically invited Yu Yuefen, a retired doctor from the former Leishan County Maternal and Child Health Station, to share the knowledge about women’s physiology, hygiene and health with rural women through the analysis of women’s reproductive organs. She also taught many common tips for daily life. In Rongjiang, after investigation, we found Dr. Long, a doctor from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, People’s Hospital of Qijiang County. It is worth mentioning that Dr. Long is also a resident of Gaopa Village, and she has received funding from Zigen from primary school to university. She is one of the few college students who knows both Gaopa dialect and Miao dialect and women’s healthcare. She is very willing to join the seminar and share knowledge of women’s healthcare with women in Gaopa Village.

河北青龙大森店妇女培训学校,学习果树管理
Learning management of fruit trees, women’s training school at Dasendian in Qinglong, Hebei

毛坪妇女中心       

“2003年10月,滋根在贵州雷山方祥乡毛坪村支持建立了妇女中心,由留村的妇女自己监管妇女中心的各种活动和发展,为毛坪村妇女和村民提供了更好的学习交流环境。建立后在利碧琳老师及其他老师的帮助下开始发展了毛坪妇女手工刺绣项目,收入一半分到妇女手中,一半留在中心支持妇女开展公共活动。通过这样的方式,当地的妇女不但解决了生活上的困难,更重要的是找回自信和价值。因为受到教育大大促进男女平等。以前妇女在村里和家庭没有说话的余地,现在也能够平等地参与乡村的公共事务,在家庭里面也更有平等的地位。”(滋根二十年纪念专刊,2009)

Maoping Women’s Center

“In October 2003, Zigen supported the establishment of a women’s center in Maoping Village, Fangxiang county, Leishan, Guizhou. Women from the villages supervised the activities and development of the Women’s Center on their own, providing a better learning environment for women and residents in Maoping Village. After the establishment of the learning and communication environment, with the help of Ms. Li Bi Lin (Bik-Lam Lee) and other volunteers, the Maoping Women’s Hand Embroidery Project was started. Half of the income was distributed to women and half remained in the center to support women in public activities. Through this way, local women not only solved the difficulties in life but also rediscovered their self-confidence and values. In the past, women did not have right to speak out in the village and family. Now, because compulsory education has greatly promoted equality between men and women, women can participate equally in the rural public affairs, and also have an equal status in the family.” (Zigen 20th Anniversary Special Issue, 2009)

云南玉龙妇女踊跃参加混农林种植项目(拍摄者:Christian Lamontagne)
Women in Yulong, Yunann joining the agroforestry planting project (Photo credited to Christian Lamontagne)

老年人织布小组发掘留守妇女和老人的力量

“南猛村的老人担心以后没有人懂得织布手工艺,于是提出恢复织布传统技艺的需求,中国滋根在中国扶贫基金会的资助下,推动农村留守妇女成立南猛村妇女织布小组,现在小组成员有21人。

有个老人说:‘以前没成立织布小组的时候,大家只知道忙里忙外的干活,没什么兴趣爱好。现在大家可以在一起学习织布、唱苗歌,讲故事,说笑话,每月集中在一起聚餐一次,你带一点米酒,我带一点米饭,她带一点菜地集中在一个妇女家吃饭,唱歌、跳板凳舞等。妇女们白天忙做农活,就利用晚上来织布,大家都很开心,不但找到了生活的乐趣,而且还减少了干农活的疲劳。’

嫁来南猛村的杨大姐本来是汉族,一开始对苗族文化不感兴趣,受到滋根织布小组的感染,跟随老人学习织布,跟年轻妇女学习刺绣,现在她不但会织布刺绣,还说了一口很流利的苗话。她对织布还有研究与创新,提出用不同颜色的棉线来搭配,不但花色好看,而且在市场也很有竞争力。”(张云飞,2017)

The Elderly Weaving Team Explores the Power of Left-Behind Women and The Elderly

“The elderly in Nanmeng Village are worried that no one will know how to weave crafts in the future. They therefore have brought up the need to restore the traditional skills of weaving. Under the funding of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, Zigen has encouraged the rural left-behind women to establish the Nanmeng Village Women’s Weaving Group. Now there are 21 members in this group.

南猛村留守妇女织布小组开始启动,大家一起讨论并实施计划

An old lady said, “Before weaving team was established, everyone only knew that they were really busy but didn’t have any hobbies. Now through one year of weaving, everyone can learn weaving together, sing Miao songs, tell stories, tell jokes, etc. We gather once a month in a woman’s house to eat, sing and dance. You bring some rice wine and I bring some rice and she brings some vegetables. Women are busy with farm work during the day, and they spend the evening to weave. Everyone is very happy. They not only find the joy of their lives, but also reduce the fatigue of doing farm work.”

Ms. Yang, who came to Nanmeng Village via marriage, was originally born in a Han group. She was not that interested in Miao culture at first. Now she was influenced by the Zigen Weaving Group. She learned to weave from the elderly and learned embroidery from young women. Now she not only knows weaving and embroidery but also can speak Miao dialect fluently. She also researched and innovated on weaving and proposed to use different colors of cotton to match. Not only do the crafts have a good appearance, but they are very competitive in the market. (Zhang Yunfei, 2017)

这些项目都取得了一些看得见的成果,增加了妇女的经济收入,改善家庭关系,建立了妇女的自信,拓展妇女在村庄的公共活动空间,增进妇女间的支持,但是也存在不同程度的问题,比如妇女自信不够,对决策时对男性有依赖,对村庄公共事务的参与也不够。滋根会始终和妇女站在一起,也会越来越重视发动妇女参与经济发展、乡村教育、环境保护、乡土文化传承,以妇女为主推动人、农村、农业的可持续发展。

老人和妇女们学习织布 The elderly and women learn how to weave

These projects have achieved some tangible results, increased women’s economic income, improved family relationships, established women’s self-confidence, expanded women’s public space in the village, and enhanced women’s interior support. However, there are also various problems such as women’s lack of self-confidence, being too dependent on men in decision-making and not enough participation by women in village’s public affairs. Zigen will always stand with women, give attention to encouraging women to participate in economic development, rural education, environmental protection and inheritance of local culture, and will promote the sustainable development of people, the countryside and agriculture with women as the basis.

Translated by Jocelyn Yu, comes from Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Currently work in technology corporation in Shanghai. In her leisure time, she prefers to explore the city by bike. She also likes to make new friends all over the world.

Edited by Solo Tung, a professional Chinese-English translator and proofreader.

CategoryHighlight, News
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