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Tribal Women Of India: The Potential Contributors To Growth

By Swaleha Sindhi

24 November, 2013


India is a country of villages as the majority of its population lives in villages and far-flung remote areas. The interesting aspect is that every region of the country though connected with the cities now; however, still possesses its own peculiar traditional ethos. Also most of the rural communities/Tribal’s are still devoid of modern facilities like education, electricity, proper drinking water, health care, ample transportation, etc. Tribal development in India has been a success as the primitive societies living in remote rural areas are now educating their children and living in desirable standards. It is interesting to note that apart from several governmental efforts, the contributions of non-governmental organizations in providing training and development in different sectors of economy especially the tribal population. Women are often concentrated in handicrafts, basic food processing and sale which are traditionally considered to be women’s domain. Women also show a propensity to pursue micro-enterprises and homestead farming activities (The World Bank, FAO, IFAD, 2008).Skills training, increased growth, productivity and innovation, in particular for the informal sector are linked with poverty reeducation.(Fluitman:2002). Skills development improves output, quality, diversity and occupational safety and improves health, thereby increasing incomes and livelihoods of the poor. It also helps to develop social CapitaLand strengthens knowledge about informal sector associations, rural organizations and governance. According to human capital theory, the better educated the agricultural labor, the higher their productivity (Atchoarena, et. al. 2003). The fact is despite being unskilled, poor, suppressed or discriminated; women still try to contribute to family income either directly or indirectly. Poor and vulnerable women are usually more interested in skills training that meets their immediate ‘practical gender needs’ as opposed to longer term, “strategic gender needs” that directly tackle the basic underlying causes of female subordination (Moser:1989).

Challenges and Winds of Change

The first and foremost challenge to the tribal is that they are still not much exposed to the outside world and are confined to their community only. Therefore living in their cocoon only and thus has witnessed hardly any socio cultural encounters. Their entire universe hence is their own community, and by virtue of this scenario, social mobility, occupational diversity, poverty alleviation, change and development, change in mindset, education and economic prosperity are still new concepts for them amidst their own traditional setup that has not altered sufficiently till the recent past. The changes taking place in the field of science and technology, development,etc, are laying their impact on the Indian society and the feeble winds of change have started laying their influences on the tribal’s as well. The educated community leaders of tribal’s are seriously concerned about the educational and economic development of their community. If we closely analyze functioning of educated tribal’s, we notice two traits of transformation. One group of educated tribal argues that tribal’s should reform themselves with the mainstream society. The other group of tribal’s wants to maintain its tribal identity.

Suggestive rectification

It is important for the government to consider tribal not only as employee but as potential contributors to the growth of the region, community and economy and engage them in income generating activities in home based or village based industries. The trade promoted for tribals must be innovative and strategic in promoting activities where larger share is received by tribal women and emphasis should be given to Women Friendly Special Projects. This would facilitate participation in productive work that ultimately leads to increase in social empowerment of woman. Thus, there is no doubt that the rural women can acquire any developmental milestones (skills) only through education and thus can change their own destiny. Their self perception can be elevated by the knowledge that they are contributing financially and visibly to the household and that they are in a better negotiating position. They can avoid dependence on others and escape exploitation in everyday life, avoid humiliation, gain confidence to work more productively. Thus, education has played a major role in empowering rural women. They contribute towards national development by making 36% of the GNP exclusive of their services as mothers and household managers. By empowering rural woman through education can thus enable them to live with dignity and self reliance cutting across the barriers of customary biases and prejudices, social barrier of caste, class, gender, occupation and institutional barriers that prevent them from taking actions to improve their state both at the individual and collective level. Therefore, free education and necessary and employable skill development programmes must be launched for tribal students and women so as to make them self reliant and economically independent. Furthermore, right to vote is meaningless unless rural women are made aware, educated and imparted skills to understand the order of the day and this can bring change in their lives, in the family and lastly transform the holistic tribal landscape of India, through education, legal awareness, and socio economic independence.


Any developmental process is the expansion of assets and capabilities of rural women to participate in, negotiate with, influence, control, and hold the institution accountable that affect their lives. Skill development among rural women is the need of the hour so as to make them confident, self reliant and to develop in them the ability to be a part of decision making at home and outside. Indeed it may not be wrong to say that still tribal’s and rural women are the most disadvantaged and neglected section of the society for they are economically backward. Therefore there is a need on the part of the government and civil society to enable improvement in the quality of life of such vulnerable sections of the Indian population. More importantly the developmental process in India should give priority to welfare schemes and programmes meant for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes’ including women.

(Swaleha Sindhi is Assistant Professor at The M.S.University of Baroda, she can be mailed at [email protected])


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