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Drudgery in the hills

The participation of women in large number in the movement for the hill state of Uttarakhand, proved besides other things that they form the backbone of the village economy. Factors like the ever-increasing male migration and the tradition of women taking care of agriculture and related activities have increased their drudgery. They continue to collect fuel and fodder, rear cattles and do their household chores. Despite all this she is not able to access some basic health services, leading to her poor health status and thereby also affecting the rest of the family. Women in Uttarakhnad have been the custodians of agriculture land, and hence performing the intensive Drudgery-fodder1-300x225operations of sowing, weeding, threshing, harvesting and storing crops. They put in more number of hours than men in agriculture production and natural resource management and yet remain undernourished and under-compensated. In the system of agriculture activities, a certain kind of gender bias can actually be observed, which is rooted deep in the tradition. Ploughing as in the rest of the country is considered to be a male-dominated activity, while women have to manually prepare the land and do weeding, manureing, transplant, and later post-harvesting tasks are also done by women. The drudgery of women in the hills, coupled with poor nutrition has led to many cases of anaemia, respiratory problems, body pain, mental trauma and reproductive health complications. The intake of food is low compared to the hard work undertaken by them. Spending long hours amidst traditional chulas in closed rooms is responsible for respiratory problems. Lack of knowledge about health and health services has created reproductive health complications amongst women. It is again drudgery that leads to the problems of Prolepses of uterus. Prolepses of uterus is a widely prevalent medical problem existing among women in the hills. A major cause for this problem is the tendency of hill women taking up hard physical work immediately or after only few days of delivery. Various field observations carried out independently have observed this situation. However, there has been a dearth of information and data on this particular issue. The state’s health policies and programmes have hardly considered this as a problem. Drudgery which leads to health and illness problems, get compounded due to poor health seeking behaviour. As in other parts of the country, there is also a gender bias in the health-seeking behaviour. Males immediately respond to an illness by taking up treatment, whereas females try to cope with the health problem, by first seeking household cure, then going to the local quack and,when the problems persists go to a nearby health centre. However, when the illness becomes dangerous and complicated, the women are shifted to a hospital and in the process many times the households have to burrow money. With the drudgery situation of women not changing and agriculture and related activities not providing enough for livelihood, migration continues from the hill villages. Today one can see vast track of unused land in the hills and locked homes and many ceiling have come down due to no or poor maintenance.

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