Behind A Plate of Rice, Contains The Sweat and Tears of A Women Farmers

Muyasaroh, a woman farmer, told that once she was early pregnancy, she felt tired and vomited because of the heavy work she was carrying, “At that time, when I was one month pregnant, I harvested peanuts to the next village by truck. When I was early pregnancy, I was so tired at that time until I was vomiting and my face was pale. But at that time I held on tight."

#BreakTheBias became one of the themes for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2022. wrote a special report on “Poor Women: We are not lazy people and don’t want to work.” This special report that was published from March 8-10 2022 is an effort to break the bias that has been attached to the poor as lazy people, who don’t want to be grateful and don’t want to work.

Since 1994, Muyasaroh (48) has worked as a farm laborer in a rural area in Blitar, East Java.

Decades ago, Muyasaroh and a group of other daily farm workers worked from one field to another, they used to work across villages. Dozens of the women farmers go to work by trucks or dapsun —a pick up car that is usually used to transport crops, they have been carried to the fields where they will work. Generally, it is done in the morning after dawn.

At that time, Muyasaroh was still in his twenties, recently married, and became a housewife (IRT). She was then invited by neighbors in her village to join as a daily farm laborer. There were about 12 women in Muyasaroh’s group.

The first job she did was harvesting peanuts (groundnuts) whose wages were calculated based on their earnings. She left from 5 a.m. until late at night, with the wages received by Muyasaroh is no more than IDR 11,000. Eat twice, in the morning and afternoon.

Once, when Muyasaroh was pregnant, she felt tired and vomited because the work she was carrying was so heavy.

“When I was just married, when I was one month pregnant, I harvested peanuts to the next village by truck. Because I was pregnant, I was so tired that I was vomiting and my face was pale. However, at that time, she was held firmly,” Muyasaroh told, Monday (7/3/2022).

As a junior high school (SMP) graduate, Muyasaroh admitted that at that time it was not easy to get a job. She used to work as a Domestic Worker (PRT), but after getting married, she finally stopped working.

In her husband’s home village, a village where most of the people are farming, many married women become freelance farm laborers like Muyasaroh did. These female farm workers, do many farming activities, from planting various vegetables and food, taking care of plants, to harvesting. There is no other alternative to work, even though she is underpaid, she still does it.

“The market was, at that time, for half a day, farm laborers were paid IDR 6,000 from very early in the morning until noon, if the peanut harvest was IDR 11,000 because it was a full day. There were not many other job choices at that time, until I shed tears, it is so difficult to eat,” explained the woman whose husband at that time was also a daily farm laborer on a sugar cane plantation.

Cheaper Wages, Less Guaranteed Protection: The Vulnerability of Female Farmers

In nearly thirty years, Muyasaroh feels that the work of farm laborers has not changed much. As a female farm laborer, the mother of two also revealed that her fate is more sad because they are often paid less.

Working hours from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., she said, the market wage for female farm workers in her area is only around IDR 50,000. While men, usually IDR 10,000 higher wages.

Based on data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) as of December 2021, farm labor wages are only in the range of IDR 57,000. This nominal amount is almost only half of the work of construction workers who are paid around IDR 91,000 per working day.

“It’s only been around 2-3 years, sometimes female farm workers earn more than IDR 50,000 to IDR 60,000 per day, not so much the same as men’s wages, because if you hire men, you usually still have to spend money on cigarettes,” she said.

Muyasaroh did not deny that gender inequality is still happening in the agricultural sector today. One of them is in terms of wages, men are considered to be more “work hard” and deserve higher wages than female farm workers whose jobs are often considered only as helper.

“Men usually look heavy because they are hoeing, but when it comes to the maintenance process until harvesting, it is the female workers who are often more painstaking and enduring. That’s why, now the wages have started to be equalized, although men are still high because there is money for cigarettes,” said the woman born in 1974.

Low wages, according to Muyasaroh, can also be exacerbated by the lack of guarantees for farm workers. Especially for women who even have to keep working with all the experiences of the female body. Such as, menstruation, pregnancy, and after giving birth.

“If you don’t work, you don’t get paid, you get sick, you usually keep working because if you don’t work, it’s like you can just replace someone else or not be called (to work) anymore,” she said.

“There is no health insurance or anything, it just depends on the mercy of the employer (farmers) right,” she added.

The absence of rules or work contracts makes female farm workers even more at risk. Not only minimum wages, late or unpaid wages there is no guarantee. Even working status can be revoked or rejected at any time, only based on ‘likes or dislikes’.

“There are even those who seem to be used (exploited), being told to do this, they have to want it, as if I already paid for it, so what can be done. At that time, it was like being told to work even though it was raining heavily and lightning in the fields, even though it was dangerous,” said Muyasaroh.

During this time, Muyasaroh also admitted that she had an unpleasant experience of harassment at work. Including, most often jokes those demean women.

“Once, because of the relationship between employers (employers and workers), there was an invitation to invite people to take walks and entertainment that led to unethical things. The jokes are also (sexist),” she said.

Women Farmers Are Also Workers: The Right To Live Decently And Their Rights Are Protected

If traced, there are still many female farmworkers who do not have a ‘place to speak’. His quiet life is not much highlighted from time to time. The number of women farmers and farm laborers cannot be said to be small. BPS data from the 2018 Inter-Census Agricultural Survey (Sutas) states that the number of female farmers in Indonesia is around 8 million. This means that almost 24% of the 25.4 million farmers are women farmers. This data only includes farmers, the number could be bigger in the field because many farmworkers may not all be recorded.

Similar to what happened to Muyasaroh because she was the breadwinner for the family, BPS also noted that the number of agricultural business households with women as household heads was around 2.8 million households. This fact shows that the number of women involved in the agricultural sector is quite large.

Even so, the strategic role of women farmers and laborers in supporting these agricultural activities is still unequal to their quality of life. One of the main problems is poverty.

Many of the heads of households found in the BPS survey are poor households. The percentage of poor households led by women reached 15.88% in the year 2018. In other words, almost 3 million agricultural households.

Not only poverty, but women farmworkers also experience more complex problems. Including, gender inequality. As is the case in various other employment sectors, women farmers or women farm laborers often have dual roles as breadwinners. In addition to taking care of the domestic household.

Based on Muyasaroh’s conversations with fellow farmworkers and farmers, a common thread can be drawn: farmers experience multidimensional systematic problems. Especially for women farmworkers.

In his village area, Muyasaroh has yet to find any massive farmer empowerment movement. The jargon that is often echoed by the government regarding agricultural capital loans to fertilizer subsidies, for example, does not have much impact on the decent life of female farmworkers like Muyasaroh.

“Fertilizer is still expensive among farmers, urea, for example, usually one bag (50 kg) is IDR 130,000, it can go up to IDR 215,000. Even if there is a farmer subsidy, it is not evenly distributed, there is also no information on loans for farmers in this village. Farmworkers also cannot ask for an increase in wages, it’s difficult for farmers who own the land,” she said.

According to Muyasaroh, there are not only problems upstream regarding fertilizers, but downstream agriculture issues regarding the distribution of crop yields, according to Muyasaroh, they are also often not very profitable for farmers. Farmers who have left their farming capital, and bear the risk of crop failure, are still being “played” by prices middlemen.

She gave an example, the price of chili which is currently high in the market reaches IDR 100,000, it could be that at the farmer level it is only valued at around IDR 60,000.

“So that middlemen don’t play with prices, now the farmers are starting to join farmer communication groups, to monitor prices. So, the most competitive ones will be used to sell the crops. Because there is no guarantee that the price will be fixed for farmers,” she concluded.

General Condition of Women Farmer

Leong Yee Ting in 2017 on the website wrote, in 2003, only a third of certified land in Java was owned by women. Although the 1974 Marriage Law regulates the ownership of the wife, this is rarely practiced in the making of certificates due to the low level of education and also the high patriarchal mindset of placing a male name on the certificate.

Unequal access to land also means unequal access to credit, because land certificates are used as collateral for credit. This has a real impact on the lives of women farmers and their families. In Cianjur, West Java, women farmers and their families are heavily indebted to middlemen due to limited access to credit. Debt is taken not only for agricultural inputs, but also for basic needs or emergency health care. Many of these women are forced to become migrant workers in Taiwan or Saudi Arabia to pay their debts.

Agricultural extension workers tend to ignore women farmers. There is an assumption that agricultural work done by women is seen as a side job from their household work or only limited to helping men in agriculture. Yet the fact is that these women are so poor that they have no choice but to work on the farm, but they are not recognized by the authorities.

Women farmers also have significantly less access to leadership and decision-making, even though they have an important role. Agricultural organizations are often dominated by men. Mixed farmer groups with active male and female members are rare. Although there are several women’s agricultural organizations in Yogyakarta and South Sumatra, they tend to be left out of decision-making in the community.

Women farmers are also expected to bear the double burden of household and agricultural work. Sometimes, they are not paid or are paid less than men. This has a significant physical and psychological impact on them.

In commemoration of National Farmers Day or Agrarian Day, September 24, 2020 organized by Komnas Perempuan and Solidaritas Perempuan, noted that women farmers in many areas in Indonesia experienced the same problem: they did not own land, they ended up working as farm laborers, getting paid. cheap, often get violence and sexual harassment because of conflict.

In Kulonprogo, Jogjakarta to be precise on Menoreh hill, women farmers experienced problems when the land in Kulonprogo was used for the construction of Jogjakarta International Airport. The land around the airport is now being built for various kinds of business and business buildings, as a result the farmers there no longer own land and only become laborers. Sana Ullaili, a farmer in Bukit Menoreh said, apart from this problem, education for the farming families there is still prioritized for boys.

Ruth Murtiasih from the Qaryah Thayyibah Farmers’ Association in Salatiga, Central Java mapped the experiences of women farmers living in a number of areas in Central Java. In Mount Merbabu, for example, they still face the main problem of not having access to land management because the land is controlled by Perhutani and for the construction of Merbabu and Merapi National Parks. Likewise farmers in Mount Sindoro whose access is difficult because the national park is very tightly guarded.

“In the past you could still get grass, but now grass alone is hard to come by.”

The construction of this national park has been criticized a lot, because it only builds a park, but eliminates the presence of humans around the park. Currently the farmers there are starting to do reclaiming, namely by buying and selling plants because this is the only thing that can be done.

“Farmers finally do reclaiming, namely buying and selling plants, buying and selling their crops because this is the only thing that can be done.”

Dinda Nuur Annisaa Yura, Chair of the National Executive Board for Solidaritas Perempuan mapped in the forum, that from the various problems presented by women farmers, it can be seen how the community cannot put their hope in the government, because it is proven that the government always disappoints.

“Everyone should have the same rights to manage the land and the surrounding nature, this becomes difficult when there is ownership for business and the government allows it. Land, water, coast, air are controlled and policies cannot protect the people, instead they are taken away.”

So the community then tries to solve their economic problems on their own, such as holding food solidarity, selling agricultural products which are then purchased by the organization and distributed to other communities in need.

Komnas Perempuan Commissioner, Dewi Kanti, said that until now agrarian conflicts are still happening and have had a big impact on the fate of farmers. This agrarian conflict is the widest conflict because there is a source of life. The Agrarian Law should be made into law for community land ownership, but because it was not resolved, as a result there were a lot of conflicts that cost women.

“Society has always viewed that the subject of nature has always been a part of him. But then they must have the fighting power to face conflict, face extraordinary forces. The state must come soon.”

Komnas Perempuan from 2019 found many similar patterns related to this agrarian conflict, namely evictions, criminalization which then sacrificed women.

“There are efforts to subdue the struggle movement and target women’s bodies such as rape and sexual violence from these agrarian conflicts.”

In this agrarian conflict there is also economic violence, harassment and sexual violence. So Dewi Kanti asked the government to encourage corporations to keep nature and land and society as a development priority.

“Society existed before the state was present, so society is the subject of development.”

(Translated by Widia Primastika)

Nurul Nur Azizah

Bertahun-tahun jadi jurnalis ekonomi-bisnis, kini sedang belajar mengikuti panggilan jiwanya terkait isu perempuan dan minoritas. Penyuka story telling dan dengerin suara hujan-kodok-jangkrik saat overthinking malam-malam.

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