As we celebrate Makar Sankranti, its time to understand what it truly stands for, to put our thinking hats on, and start a dialogue about what truly matters. Makar Sankranti is one of the most widely celebrated harvest festivals in India. It is celebrated nationwide with each region having its unique way of doing so. For instance, in Punjab, it is known as Maghi and includes an early morning dip in the river, lighting diyas and relishing foods rich in calories. Rajasthan and Gujarat mark the festival with certain traditional activities and games. But essentially, Makar Sankranti marks the onset of the harvest season, making it a time of joy and frolic in the agriculture sector. Makar Sankranti celebrates farming and farmers, and while it is not gender-specific, this festival calls for more representation and opportunities for female farmers. Female farmers and gender stereotypesWomen make around 33 per cent of farmers and 47 per cent of agricultural labourers, and yet, they face a plethora of issues in the industry. One of the major problems with women in agriculture is that while they put in the same amount of toil in farming, not many of them own the land. The land, as our society has it, usually belongs to man. This means that around 84 per cent of women who depend on farming for their livelihood are left with minimal security and benefits. In fact, due to stereotypical gender roles, women are often employed as agricultural labours than farmers. And due to lack of property, they work on others farms, which often leads to exploitation, low wage, and sexual harassment. Consequently, rather than individual farmers, women are mainly seen and employed as agricultural labourers on others farms which often leads to their exploitation in terms of low wages and sexual harassment also. Female farmers, who dont own a piece of land, are not entitled to institutional credit, which makes it even more difficult for them to gather funding. This makes the productivity of their farm deplete. Farmer suicides As these women are categorised as landless labourers, families of many female farmers who committed suicide arent entitled to receiving a pension or other relation funds by the government. According to a 2018 survey conducted by the Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch (MAKAAM) analysing the data from women farmers whose husbands committed suicide, 29 per cent of them couldnt get the farmland in their name. In fact, only 35 per cent had secured the rights to their house. Only 26 per cent of women applied for a pension, out of which, only 34 per cent of applications were accepted. Even after acceptance, not everyone got full pension, each month. All of this agricultural stress leads to suicides, poverty, child marriages, lack of girl child education and many other socio-economic issues. Schemes that support female farmers 1.Under the Centrally Sponsored SchemeSupport to States Extension Programme for Extension Reforms, female farmers are encouraged by reserving a minimum of 30 per cent of resources on their uplifting. 2.UnderSub Mission on Seed and Planting Material (SMSP),women farmers receive equal access to training programs as men. State governments are advised to allocate enough funding for the development of women farmers. 3.Under theNational Food Security Mission (NFSM), 30 per cent of funds are allocated for female farmers. They also have programs to educate women on improved technology for growing production and productivity of crops. 4.Under theNational Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP), 30 per cent of funds are reserved for women beneficiaries. 5.Under theSub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM),women receive training, demonstration and financial assistance for new technology used in farming. 6.Under theNational Horticulture Mission, women get access and inclusion in Self Help Groups that help female farmers become more self-reliant.7.ICAR- Central Institute for Women in Agriculture (ICAR-CIWA) has been researching to improve technology that is suitable for female farmers. They aim to understand the needs and perspectives of women in agriculture so there can be more suitable programs and projects that address their issues. *Image used for representational purpose only.