Technology and gender equality

They say technology is a big leveller. Surely, it has made the world flat.

They say technology is a big leveller. Surely, it has made the world flat. But it also appears to be bringing about equality of the sexes--albeit in a small measure--so amiss in this part of the globe and, particularly, in rural India. In a country where female infanticide, mal-nutrition, illiteracy, physical abuse are rampant, stories of how women are getting empowered--thanks to technology--fall as music to my ears. And raise hope for a brighter future.

I recently met an entrepreneur who runs a food business that starts at the farm level, and goes up to processed foods and food retailing. This entrepreneur had an interesting story to tell. Here it goes:

This particular company has brought the latest farming, packaging and food processing technologies to the farms of India. A large number of women work at these farms. Due to technology, these farms turned out to be a lot more efficient and had a higher yield per acre. Some of these women, in turn, emerged as chief breadwinners in their households.

A majority of these farms have an Internet connection. They also have a school and a crèche in the vicinity (run by the business group that promotes this company). And payments are made through electronic transfers. So the money is promptly sent to the accounts of the farmers.

In the state of Punjab, where this company has a large presence in terms of the number of farms, men loiter around till around 7pm, and then proceed to their homes. When this entrepreneur asked a bunch of them why they were not going home, they had an interesting answer. They said if they get home now, they would have to cook, feed their children and put them to sleep. So they'd rather loiter around and get home once their wives, who get back home from the fields around 5.30 pm, have done these tasks.

While it is not uncommon to see men in large cities and metros do their bit in the kitchen, feed and bathe the children, buy groceries, and so on, the day is not far when the men in these villages will also stop loitering around and do their bit of household chores.