“At dawn, when the sun is just a sliver of pink, and acacia trees with grotesque silhouettes scratch at the sky, a round of cocks crowing – one from the seat of a tractor, one from an overturned oil can, one from the thatched roof of the granary – wakens women in the drylands of Africa. As one body they rise, tie their scarves round their heads and their babies on their backs, set sticks to burn under cooking pots, slop food for chickens and pigs, pile porridge into bowls, curse the dog, queue for the standpipe. As the sun rises – a malevolent orange eye – they step onto the track, worn through the bush by generations of work-hardened feet, and make their way to the land for the day.
Dawn in Asia’s wet plains sets women stirring too: crawling from their folds of mosquito net, wrapping their saris tight, blowing life into charcoals, coaxing children to eat rice, and calves to eat gruel, driving buffalo to the mist-shrouded paddy fields, then stepping into tepid brown water and bending as they will bend all day.
A church bell ringing and dogs barking nudge Andean women awake. A prayer is whispered, a skirt fastened, water hauled from the well in the village square, goats tethered and milked into an old aluminium bucket, beans heated and tipped onto tin plates. Then, closing a rickety door, they step onto the steep, stony track that winds down from their houses to the fields.
Others are woken by prayer calls from mosque minarets; by donkeys braying under olive trees; by cows lowing, their udders swollen and tender with milk. These women, who live in the world’s rural areas, are farmers in everything but name. And their labour produces half of the world’s food.”
– Debbie Taylor, from ‘Women: An Analysis’
in Women: A World Report (Reed Books)