Globalization is the process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas, and other aspects of culture. The term globalization has been increasingly used since the mid 1980s and especially since the mid 1990s. In 2000, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) identified trade and transactions, capital and investment movements, migration and movement of people and the dissemination of knowledge, as the four basic aspects of globalization. The growth in technology, spread of print and electronic media and growth of services like insurance, banking, health care etc are other aspects of Globalization.
The words Globalization, Privatization and Liberalization are used interchangeably in practice. But theoretically, these three concepts have different meaning. Globalization describes an ongoing process by which regional economies, societies and cultures have become integrated through globe spanning networks of exchange. It refers to the integration of national economies through trade, foreign direct investment, capital flows, migration and the spread of technologies. Privatization is the transfer of ownership of business, enterprise, agency or public service from public sector to the private sector. Liberalization refers to the relaxation of restrictions imposed by government through tariffs and laws over trade or business with other countries.
As far as the dismantling of barriers to international economic transactions is concerned, the first step in this direction was ‘trade liberalization’ which led to the unprecedented expansion of international trade between 1950s and 1970s. This was followed by the liberalization of regimes for foreign investments leading to a surge in international investment which began in the late 1960s. The restrictions on the capital movements were removed by world nations since 1970s and it was this dismantling of regulations and controls over finance which led to the Globalization of finance at an astounding rate since mid 1990s.
The impact of Globalization was felt on all walks of life, especially on the urban population. The coming of foreign investments increased the employment opportunities and the standard of living of the people. In the third world countries it led to the boom of I-T and Telecommunications. The advent of television, mobile phones, computers and internet changed the way of life of people in those countries. Brand new cars and branded products became part of lifestyle for many. Globalization also had a serious impact on how people viewed their lives. It made even families more liberal. Women got opportunity to come to the fore front of the society and better education and job opportunities provided them with the social, economic and political empowerment which was denied to them for centuries. But the impact of Globalization was not all the same in rural areas as it was felt in urban areas. It led to the decline of agriculture which was the backbone of the rural economy. It led to the massive migration of men from rural to urban and in most cases, leaving their women and children behind. It is in this context we attempt to make a review on the impact of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization on the lives of rural women.
Impacts of Globalization on Rural Women
The implications of Globalization for rural women are complex. For some women it presented with new opportunities that could drastically improve their lives, and for some others, it led to social exclusion and marginalization. On one hand majority of women in India and other developing countries find themselves stripped off the benefits of social security, government subsidy, protection of labour rights, and the safety nets. On the other hand, there were possibilities of better education facilities and opportunities at the transnational sense which are very attractive to the privileged few. The benefits have included increased off farm activities, including wage employment in non agricultural sectors and enhanced opportunities for participation in local decision making and networking which includes information and communication technologies.
One of the major outcomes of Globalization was that land became a highly marketable asset. This led to the privatization of land through titling and registration programmes and accompanying legislation. But women benefited less than men from these changes. The traditional attitudes and stereotypes regarding the role of women and men in the society gave men the control over land and the rights of women over land were ignored by the family and community members, particularly in the case of widowed and divorced women.
The deliberate expulsion of women from their rights on land, resulted in their limited access to credit facilities, because land is the major asset used as collateral to obtain rural credit. The increased privatization of financial sector made the access of credit even more difficult for women in rural areas. This situation led to the emergence of micro credit schemes for the empowerment of rural women in the decade post Globalization. However men maintained significant control over the credit brought by women into the household and the loans were used for purposes different from the ones applied for. The loans and the pressure for the repayment of it led to stress and to higher levels of domestic violence.
Privatization affects rural population in terms of their access to public goods such as water, fire woods and other free raw materials. This creates hardships for women in terms of time spend in collecting wood for fuel, water and other common property resources. As a result women’s aquaculture, horticulture and animal husbandry activities are jeopardized.
The spread of agro-industry and rural industrialization post-Globalization has increased the possibilities for women to access cash income through self employment or the setting up of rural enterprises. Wage employment allows women to get out of the relative isolation of the home and gain self esteem and confidence. But that did not change the status of women in the family. Even when they are earning wages, women retain the primary responsibility for domestic work. Men and boys in the family do not take on a greater share of responsibility for the household management and family care.
Inequalities in education and skill acquisition can explain the fact that women benefit less than men from economic opportunities. Globalization helped in creating improved access to training and education. But the benefits of these reached more the urban women and not the rural women. Gender inequalities in education are predominant in rural areas. The increased working opportunities created by Globalization demanded increased labour from rural women and girls, which jeopardized their education and even resulted in their complete withdrawal from school.
Globalization has been accompanied by political changes in the form of decentralization and this opened up new space for women. In India, more than a million women are now at different levels of local governance in both rural and urban local bodies. This led to the political empowerment of women. The Women’s Reservation bill under the consideration of Indian Parliament could turn out to be landmark legislation in this regard, if passed.
Increased labour mobility as a result of Globalization has resulted in changes in household composition. Men are away on temporary or seasonal migration while continuing to maintain their decision making power. Lack of access to resources at home, particularly productive land, is one factor that contributes to women’s migration from rural areas complemented by the potential attraction of labour market opportunities. Apart from economic reasons, women also migrate in order to escape the hardships of rural life and the patriarchal social control. But these women are vulnerable to trafficking for the purpose of exploitation, including prostitution and forced labour, because they are uneducated and have limited knowledge about the world outside their rural areas.
Spread of Information and communication technologies were another outcome of Globalization. Effective access and use of information and communication technologies can improve rural women’s understanding of the society and participation in community and economic development activities. But this will be depending on infrastructure, such as roads and transport, education, training and economic resource. If these requirements improve in the rural areas, then multiple forms of media and communication technologies will reach more women in rural areas.
Globalization has had both positive and negative impact on the lives of rural women. But as of now it has to be accepted that the negatives outweigh the positives. It has stripped off the benefits of social security, government subsidy, and protection of labour rights from the rural women. As land became a highly marketable asset, the rights of women over land were ignored by the family. The deliberate expulsion of women from their rights on land and the increased privatization of financial sector made the access of credit even more difficult for women in rural areas. The privatization of raw materials jeopardized aquaculture, horticulture and animal husbandry activities of rural women. Globalization resulted in changes in household composition. The temporary or seasonal migration of men increased the household burden of rural women. On the other hand, Globalization provided rural women with better education facilities and opportunities. It also resulted in increased off farm activities, including wage employment in non agricultural sectors and enhanced opportunities for participation in local decision making and networking which includes information and communication technologies.
We have come a long way since globalization and any debate on the virtue of the implementation of it is irrelevant now. Globalization is a reality we have to live with and is an irreversible process. But what the policy makers can now think of is how to how the negative impacts could be rectified. Policies should be adopted concentrating rural areas especially the rural women which will ensure their rights on property, education and work. Training programmes should be conducted that will introduce women to the latest information and communication technologies and infrastructures should be developed that will make these technologies reach every rural household. New innovations, research and development can be brought to the agriculture sector which could save it from further declining. Thus such concentrated efforts can turn the tide in favour of the rural areas and could result in the development of the villages as dreamt by the father of India – Mahatma Gandhi.
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