Gendered division of labour in the Second Agricultural Revolution: A Zimbabwean perspective

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  • In Zimbabwe, when both husband and wife are both farmers, women still perform more than 50% of the agricultural tasks on all major crop grown in the communal and resettlement areas.

By Chapeyama Jacqueline Tariro

DIVISION of labour refers to role that people occupy in the production process. Different societies and economic systems have different ways of organising who does which particular job. International division of labour is whereby countries specialises in the production of particular things for exports.

There is another important aspect of division of labour and that is its gendered character. Men tend to be grouped in different jobs from women. A gender division of labour refers to the ideas societies have about what social roles and forms of employment are most appropriate for men and women an example at a university set up, it appears that most professors are men and most secretaries are women.

In the global economy women are the majority of workers in the processing zones and the men are the majority of the managers. In finance industry, men are a majority of the stockbrokers, women the majority of bank tellers. The interesting thing about the gendered division of labour is that it is not pre-ordained or natural but changes over time depending on social and economic circumstances.

Every society has a distinct pattern of gendered work. The tendency is for women’s work to be less well paid than work dominated by men. Women are often concentrated in particular types of employment. They are over present in the caring and support professionals such as clerical, teaching, nursing, counselling and childcare.

Being a woman in the global economy entails a much greater chance of being poorer, working harder and under worse conditions than a man. This can be supported by the factor that 95 % of sweatshops workers in Asians countries are women and are subjected to hard labour.

  Of great importance is the role of women in agriculture activities in Zimbabwe where the government regards agriculture development as of great importance to the nation’s existence and future, for the reason, the government supports agricultural development at all levels from subsistence farmers to small-scale and large-scale commercial farmers. 

 During the second agricultural revolution in the 1980s women were described as the backbone of that revolution mainly because the surplus produced was through their agricultural labour and they also carried out most of the regular agricultural work and so produced the largest component of the food.

A number of studies on the role of women in economic development have touched on sensitive and deeply entrenched traditional beliefs, sometimes drawing controversial comments from decision – makers, policy maker’s researchers and extension agents.

It is very important to noted that women constitute about 55 % of Zimbabwe’s population of which 86% live in the rural areas. About 70% of the farmers in communal and resettled areas are women.

In Zimbabwe, when both husband and wife are both farmers, women still perform more than 50% of the agricultural tasks on all major crop grown in the communal and resettlement areas. In addition, they are also entailed to household chores such as fetching water, processing food, cooking, herding cattle and caring for children, the sick and elderly.  

Data in the 1990s indicates that the agricultural sector employed about 35% of women and 25% of men. An examination of the anthropological and economic history of the colonial period reveals that women were major providers and key labour force within the communal mode of production.

The situation of women’s research is changing as the role of women changes in the national economy. Many studies in recent years have promoted an increased awareness of the role of women in development. More of these studies will enrich future approaches to gender planning and will reduce the prevailing technical, cultural, political and social constraints experienced by women.

The government has developed a gender policy that aims to improve the status of women in the all the sectors for a greater economic growth. ■

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