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Abstract

Agriculture is central to developing countries like the Philippines and rural women contribute a substantial share of the labor that goes into this sector as food producers or agricultural workers. In the wake of numerous studies conducted worldwide about women since the United Nations’ Decade for Women (1976-1984), data appear sparse on the relationship between women’s work and women’s health in the agricultural setting to enable policy makers and program implementors to adequately address their health needs. Thus this study aimed to determine the nature of available information in the gender literature to enable us to understand the link between women’s productive farm work and their health status, and to elicit major implications for research to aid policy and program. The method used was a review and analysis of pertinent data in the research literature on agricultural women covering over two decades. Findings from the study reiterate the crucial role held by these women throughout the developing world in securing food for their families and communities, but then this role is not performed without adverse consequences to their health. The major consequences include female reproductive health risks owing particularly to women’s use and exposure to hazardous agrochemicals, farm-related accidents or physical injuries, ergonomic problems resulting from women’s use of tools or technology that are better suited to men, and nutritional deficiencies that are compounded by poverty and overwork. Other findings have surfaced two main research imperatives: the need for more updated and gender disaggregated national statistics on the status of agricultural women in developing societies, and the necessity for addressing various identified gaps in the women’s work-and-health paradigm.

Note on the Author

Ma. Elena Chiong-Javier, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Community Development at the Behavioral Sciences Department and Director of the Social Development Research Center at De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines. She is grateful to the University for funding this study and to Elaine C. Tolentino for research assistance.

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