Despite of identical work to male in farming fields, the female agricultural workers especially coming from the ethnic groups are still facing wage disparity in the region particularly in the vast Barind tract for long.Traditionally, most of the ethnic female members work in agricultural works like sapling transplantation, weeding and harvesting side by side with their male members.
Interestingly, the female workers are most experienced and efficient in works than that of their male counterparts. They also manage their households and nurse their offspring.A good number of women in the region work in crop fields as day labourers. But all of them are given less wages than their male labourers.Around three lakh ethnic people live in the barind area comprising 25 Upazilas of Rajshahi, Naogaon and Chapainawabgonj districts. More than 95 percent of them irrespective of male and female are involved in agricultural works. Around 40,000 of them sell their labours to other fields almost round the year. Mainul Islam, a farmer of Kakonhat in Godagari Upazila, said the female workers are more efficient in seedling transplantation and its nursing. Besides, they show equal competence in weeding and paddy harvesting and threshing. Many of the land owners choose the female workers in farming activities as their wage is less in some extent than the male ones.Many NGOs are working in the name of realizing due rights of the ethnic women but none of them has initiative to draw attention of the policy makers in this regard, he alleged.Kolpona Mormu, a day-laborer of Golai village under the same Upazila, said the employers give us Taka 150 as daily payment while Taka 200 for the male workers. The malpractice is taking place for long and none has headache in this regard. Normally, the female workers don’t protest against the wage disparity in this region.”Though the female workers are more honest to work than the male workers, they get less wage as they are most vulnerable in the present social context”, she added. Raj Kumar Shaw, Executive Director of Anagrasar Samaj Unnayan Sangstha, alleged that if they claim equal wages to their male counterparts they get, the employers will become reluctant to engage them in work for next time. For this reason they are compelled to receive much lower wages.He said some female day labourers who are victim of discrimination are frequently seen narrating the pathetic stories of their frustration and deprivation at workplaces.As a result, ethnic households particularly those that are headed by women are vulnerable to the effects of fluctuations in labour demand and health shocks. This desperate situation forces many ethnic women to sell their labour in advance for an even lower rate during the lean seasons, and they work for longer hours just to feed their families.Rabindra Nath Saren, President of Jatiya Adibashi Parishad, said some ethnic women in the Barind are coming forward to run in Union Parishad elections with the support of some development organizations but this is not enough to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable groups.He added that the policy-makers and the public alike need to be sensitive to these differences when considering how to end the wage disparity. -BSS, Rajshahi