Women in Agriculture: Two Sides of a Coin
Rabu 5 Desember 2018

First published : 8 December 2016


Currently, a total of 5 million people in Central Java province work in agriculture, 38% of which are women. The data indicates that women play a major role in sustainable landscape management. However, there has been little acknowledgment of the contribution of women in agricultural sector and men are still dominating in terms of the rights to land and decision on land use and management.  This is especially true in most areas in Java Island, especially the rural areas, where the patriarchal system is still strongly upheld.


In the patriarchal system of Java, men are responsible for earning a living for their families while women are only responsible for taking care of the household and raising children. In response to the increasing economic pressure, men who used to work full time in the field try to generate additional household income by working side jobs as drivers or construction labours.  The side jobs have in fact seized their time in their agricultural land that men have begun to hand over most of the tasks in agricultural fields to their wives. Despite so, it does not necessarily give women the rights to income and decision making on land use.




Women are always subordinate to the men, including in income management and education. Most women farmers are the labours of the household who help other members of the household without pay, either cash or in kind.  Similarly in terms of education, women farmers have less opportunity to continue their education to higher levels. Some 80% of women farmers only attend primary schools or below while 20% of male farmers can attend at least middle school level education.


Challenges remain in the implementation of activities for women’s empowerment. In the prevailing patriarchal system of the Javanese society, women are made to be in subordination to men. The society values male children more than female children. The preference to give more privilege to boys is also evident in many aspects of their life, including in education and employment. Since in their norm women are not expected to earn a living, most households would marry their daughters off at very early age.  In such society and prevailing system, women believe that such discriminating treatment are proportionate to their “actual” role as women and therefore allow injustice to keep happening.