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Women's participation in the NREGA

the interplay between wage work and care

Ratna Sudarshan


A component of the UPA government’s Common Minimum Programme, the NREGA – now MGNREGA ? was launched in February 2006 in 200 most backward districts of the country. The scheme was expected to create wage work during the lean agricultural season through a public works programme available on demand as guaranteed by the Act. In addition to providing a floor to income, it was hoped that distress migration would be checked, village assets created and a process of sustainable development initiated. The rural employment guarantee legally enshrines the right to work for 100 days, is demand driven, now has national coverage and in?built mechanisms for accountability and shows a measure of gender sensitivity1 in its design. Under the Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Scheme (1979), a forerunner of the MGNREGA, employment on public works was seen to attract women, and in turn women reported an improvement in family food/ nutrition as a result of the MEGS work (Devaki Jain/ISST 1979; Krishnaraj, 2005). There are complex issues surrounding women’s participation in public works: would the ratio of men and women on worksites change if wages offered were higher, at what cost to children or women’s own health is such work done, are there pathways out of public works into other, more productive work. This paper has the objective first, of trying to understand through fieldwork the reasons behind women’s observed level of participation in the scheme in different parts of the country; and second, to identify ways in which the well being of women participants could be enhanced and the potential of the programme better realized. The interplay between ‘wage work’ and ‘care’ is seen as being fundamental in attempting a gendered analysis of the programme.

Publication Type(s)

Conference Paper

Ten Years of War Against Poverty Conference Papers

Conference: Ten Years of War Against Poverty


1 Women's participation in the NREGA PDF 295.5 KB

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