Tribal Women’s Role in the Economy

Mostly, the kitchen garden is controlled by the woman and she owns pigs, goats and fowl. The sale proceeds of the domesticated animals are retained by the housewife and she makes purchases according to her own liking when visiting her parental home. Women are also adept at selling fruits and forest products in the weekly markets.

Vegetables and horticultural products are usually sold by them in the markets. Women among some of the tribes of the North-East are very proficient in doing business. It is mainly the Khasi women who run shops in the markets of Shillong and Nongpoh in Meghalaya. Many women in Mizoram too manage big shops and large business and many run small family businesses, called micro enterprises, which require very little initial capital and often involve the marketing of food articles and handicrafts produced under the domestic system. No doubt, women’s limited access to capital leads to higher rates of return on their tiny investments. But the unbelievably low capital labour ratios confine women to low productivity undertakings. The urban, educated and higher-class tribal groups can take up businesses and commercial enterprises in the urban centres and same is the case of families of tribal village chiefs who have large land holdings and are able to have access to agri-business. They also manage microenterprises in dairy, poultry, fishery, piggeries and forest products.
Gender discrimination and patriarchy, in general, is a big hurdle in the way of women’s entrepreneurship. Women do not possess land or capital for investment. The only way out is interest-free loans for women. When women in Nagaland got the right to land, they were able to develop entrepreneurship in agro-based and forest-based products.

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