Exploring Women Farmers' Experiences: A Case Study of Gender Inequality on Small Turkish Farms
Savran Al-Haik, Havva
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In many countries, including Turkey, agriculture is a major component of the rural population income, and in these rural areas women are the cornerstones of the agricultural production. Resources, especially water, land, livestock, crops, and knowledge about agricultural production are crucial for preserving the livelihoods of most of the world's rural families. Access to, control over, and management of these resources determines which farming activities are pursued, what goods may be produced, and whether the lives of rural households are enhanced or diminished. Yet, gender influences who has access to these resources and what level of access they have. Although women work in the fields, the homes, outside the farm, and at the markets, their male counterparts often maintain control of the decision making over the household and its economy. Thus, women, more than men, bear the burdens - physical, psychological, social, moral, economic, and legal- of these gender inequalities. Previous studies focused on the women farmers' unpaid work in agriculture and household duties, their access to technical information, credit, extension services, critical inputs such as fertilizers and water, and marketing around the world including Turkey. However, there are not many studies addressing the Turkish women farmers' gender inequality positions from a feminist standpoint lens. Drawing on the feminist standpoint theory, the purpose of this study was to explore the gender inequality experiences of women farmers on small farm practices in Turkey. Utilizing qualitative methods through the lens of feminist inquiry as a methodological approach, this study explored several aspects addressed by research questions associated with social positions: gender division labor; women's work in agriculture and household; decision making dynamics of rural families; accessing resources and knowledge; agrarian change; and effect of gender on small farm practices from Turkish women farmers' standpoints. Feminist standpoint data were collected through 23 individual in-depth interviews, and five focus group sessions with women farmers in their villages, located in southern region of Konya province, in Turkey. Data were analyzed thoroughly following the constant comparative method by using the computer software, Atlas.ti. Initial codes used in data analysis were based on concepts and themes drawn from both the literature and theoretical framework. The results demonstrated that there are gendered roles and responsibilities on small farm practices; women participants carry out both farm and household tasks, and in this sense bearing a heavier workload burden than men. Moreover, women's work in agricultural production, subsistence production, providing care for family members, or work in the extended family house, is invisible. The results also highlighted that these rural women's formal education level is low and they lack access to extension education services. Further, they lacked decision making power, compared to their husbands, on household resources and income on these small farm practices. Additionally, this study pointed out that there is an ongoing depeasantization in these rural villages and the migrating rural women hold unemployable positions in the cities due to their limited skills and poor education background. This study concludes with recommendations for individuals, community organizations, Turkish government agricultural policy makers, and extension education systems to better assist these women in their work.
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