Despite their vital importance to rural economies, women are marginalized from the industrial, agricultural sector and deployed under oppressive conditions of traditional farming
Female farmers in Iran play an essential role in the economy and agricultural production, including the rural workforce and food security. Women do some 70% of farming activities in Iran. Although utilizing the potential of rural women is necessary for increasing development and productivity, their work practically goes invisible as “women’s share of agricultural paid work is only 11%.” (The state-run ILNA news agency – October 22, 2019)
A large part of the female population works in agriculture. But because most women work on family lands and informal contracts, they are not seen or have a small presence in the census and employment statistics.
Female farmers in Iran are divided into two groups. The first group is landowners who work on their family land. The second group is day laborers. There are more day laborers than women who own land.
Iranian women have long had a special place in traditional agriculture. However, as agriculture became mechanized, the role of the women’s workforce decreased in this sector. Men became the skilled force to use the modern farming equipment and machinery.
While women have great potentials to participate in the agricultural sector and related industries, using this potential is an essential criterion for economic growth and development.
Female farmers in Iran deprived of skills training
Skills training is one of the vital resources of development that should be available to female farmers in Iran to empower them.
A comparison of the access of women and girls with men indicates their unfavorable situation. Women farmers need to receive training and learn skills to engage in modern agriculture. In the absence of such skills, they cannot show their capabilities in the agricultural economy.
The factors influencing the lack of access to training for rural women and girls include the need of parents for girls’ labor, the lack of suitable schools or places for training women and girls, the training expenses, and early marriages.
Zahra Lashkari, who works in the summer and greenhouse vegetable sector, said about the obstacles to women’s employment in the agricultural sector: “Gender discrimination poses many challenges to women entrepreneurs in investments. Women entrepreneurs in the agricultural business face more obstacles compared to men in getting loans. They have to answer many questions to set up a modern greenhouse and farm. Limited markets, lack of land ownership, insufficient access to knowledge and information, little capital and assets for production are other obstacles to the progress of women entrepreneurial farmers.” (The state-run Hamshahri newspaper – August 2, 2021)
The exploitation of female farmers in Iran
Female farmers who work to earn the living of their families face many problems.
Zarrin Assadi works in one of the villages in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad Province, southwestern Iran. She says, “Many female farmers head their household but do not have a decent financial situation. They do anything from picking lemons and corns to harvesting wheat and planting rice. Our job is demanding and our wages little. Employers, often non-native, welcome our workforce because they know we need jobs and will not complain about conditions. Employers do not pay little to men because they know that men will go to another village for work if they do so. But as women, we have to stay beside our children and family. For gardening and farming, they pay us based on kilograms. For example, for every kilo of lemon we pick, we receive only 1,000 Tomans ($.36). We work 14 hours a day. Thorns of lemons injure our hands and face, but we receive 50,000 Tomans ($1.8) for picking 50 kilograms of lemons. The same is true for picking cucumbers and tomatoes.”
“So a woman receives only 200,000 Tomans ($7.33) for 14 hours of work while a man gets 400,000 Tomans ($14.67) for the same job,” Zarrin added.
Many day laborers are young women who look old because they have worked so hard to earn a little in the heat and cold. Their chances of getting married are nill, and they are condemned to live the cumbersome, boring life in the village. (The state-run Hamshahri newspaper – August 2, 2021)
30% of Iran’s agricultural products wasted every year
Widespread corruption among regime officials and their affiliates, looting of public properties, and mismanagement of the economy have created many crises in Iran.
Floods, drought, and earthquakes, multiplied due to the destruction of the environment, have ruined many farmlands. But even farmers who can overcome these problems and bring their crops to fruition face a more significant problem called the market. In the dire economic situation in Iran, there is no one to buy the farmers’ products at a price that benefits them.
Massoud Latifian, the Plant Organization’s deputy for pest control, said an average of 100 million tons of various agricultural products is produced in Iran every year, some 16.5 million tons of which are removed from the consumption cycle as waste. (The state-run ILNA news agency – August 18, 2021)
The amount of waste and disposal of agricultural products per year is as follows:
Grapes – 34%
Tangerine – 31%
Oranges, peaches, and cherries – 30%
Apples – 28%
Limes and sweet lemon – 26%
Pomegranate – 25%
Dates – 20%
Female farmers fall into poverty
The lower classes, like the villagers, suffer more than any other people from the corruption and plunder of the clerical authorities. Rural women and female farmers face double oppression for being rural on the one hand and being a woman on the other.
There are many problems and obstacles in the way of women’s progress in agriculture. One of the reasons that rural women are increasingly trapped in extreme poverty is the lack of access to modern agriculture. If these women had as much access to resources, information, cultivation, advanced technology, and equipment as men, agricultural productivity would increase by 30%. (The state-run Hamshahri newspaper – August 2, 2021)
The clerical regime’s suppression of women’s abilities in agriculture and refusal to give them support in the face of floods and the pandemic, coupled with inflation and the high cost of tools and raw materials, have exposed rural women to significant losses. They do not have any insurance or job security in the agricultural sector and its related industries.