Rural women in driver’s seat but men control the steering!



Rural women in driver’s seat but men control the steering! Rashi Aditi Ghosh/Zee Research Group/Delhi

Women are said to play a key role in supporting their households and their overall well-being. But when it comes to heading these households, rural women outshine their urban counterparts, says a women centric report published by the Census department of India.

According to ‘Houses, household amenities and assets’ report presented by the Census of India, 17.4 million rural households are headed by women while as the number in urban India is pegged at 9.4 million.


The Census Houses, household amenities and assets report is the first ever classification of the Head of the Households by sex. The report is said to be a key tool in framing policy for upliftment of the women by getting an insight into the overall living conditions of the female headed households in the country.

Indicating the gap between data and reality, Professor Pramod Kumar from Pt Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur said, “Census data shows more rural women as head of households but on ground this is not true. There are many instances in rural areas where the women head the Panchayat but all the decisions are taken by the husbands on their behalf.”


The report in terms of household composition suggests that nearly 4.9 million households are headed by single women and 75 per cent of them live in rural areas. Reasoning the poor economic condition and migration as a catalyst towards the growth in single women headed households, Dr. Sukant Chaudhury, University of Lucknow said, “Most of the rural women who are heading their households are either widows or deserted by their husbands. It is a sad reality of rural India that many men die without getting health facilities and those who are healthy prefer to go to the cities to earn more.”

Ironically, despite the overall growth in the number of women headed households, the dominance of men pertaining to decision making persists. While overall 219 million households are headed by men across India, merely 27 million households have women as heads.

Dwelling on the plight of women in the Indian society, Dr. Ushwinder Kaur Popli, Associate professor at the department of social work, Jamia Millia Islamia said, “Not just in rural regions but a lot of women across India have been working all throughout the day as housewives getting either no pay or appreciation for their hard work. If we convert their labour into Gross Development Product (GDP), then we can actually understand the worth of their struggle.”