Women, work and health in rural Rajasthan, India

Date of Completion

January 2001


Anthropology, Cultural|Women's Studies|Health Sciences, Public Health




This study examines the influence of women's work patterns on women's and children's health and health-seeking behavior in rural Rajasthan, India. ^ The main objectives of the study are to: (1) Examine how caste ( jati) or tribe (janjati) identity, socioeconomic status and gender ideologies influence rural women's participation in different work activities, domestic work, farm management, animal husbandry, subsistence work, and the market economy. (2) Examine the influence of the relationship between caste (jati) or tribe (janjati) identity, socioeconomic status and women's work on women's decision-making power in the household. The elements of women's decision-making include degree of mobility, control over household expenditure, and participation in agricultural and health care decision-making. (3) Study the relationship between women's work patterns and their health. (4) Generate recommendations which would increase rural women's access to health care services by (i) improving women's status within the household and in the community and (ii) providing cultural information necessary to bridge the gap between providers and receivers of health care services. ^ This study reveals that Rajasthani women are a very heterogeneous group and any economic and health care interventions must understand how this heterogeneity influences rural women's health and social status. Thus, for some groups of women (for example, high jati and Nai women living in sanjhe or extended households), work outside their homes only increases their overall burden and does not lead them to have more power or influence within the family, including health care decisions for themselves and their children. For many other women work outside their homes does give them more decision-making power within the household. However, despite high decision-making scores, many Rajput, Dangi, Vaishnav and Bhil women fail to properly utilize available health care services. This is because many social and cultural factors inhibit them from seeking health care in a timely manner. ^ But, there are other groups of women, who belong to poor or middle income (Kumhar, Suthar, Darzee and Meghwal) families and do not work outside the home, who do have power and influence over important family and health care decisions because their house work is appreciated. ^