In 2011 there were an estimated 112 million working equine animals in the world, with 43 million donkeys, 11 million mules, and 58 million horses.i The large majority of these animals live in developing countries and provide daily support to hundreds of millions of poor households by doing a wide range of work in both urban and rural areas.
They have multiple functions, one of which is to earn money that is used by families to feed themselves, pay for goods, enrol children in schools and pay for healthcare.
Women also depend on working equids - especially donkeys - for income generation, help with physically demanding household chores, as well as access to social opportunities such as membership of community groups.
The Voices from Women research project was initiated at the Brooke in 2013 to explore the contributions of working horses, mules and donkeys to the lives of women from the perspectives of the women themselves.
It aims to give women who live and work with these animals a voice and a platform to express their personal experiences and opinions, their needs and wants.
This report is based on research carried out in four countries in Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya) and South Asia (India, Pakistan). Through focus group discussions and interviews, we gathered women’s opinions on and experiences of the contributions that working donkeys, horses and mules make to their lives. This report highlights the key findings from the research.
In particular it shows the extent to which women rely on working equine animals for support in fulfilling their many roles within the household and the wider community. This includes help with domestic drudgery, providing an income for women and their families and enabling savings by providing transport for goods, water, firewood, animal feed, manure and other produce.
Their role also extends to the social sphere of women’s lives, as they raise women’s status in the community and provide them with opportunities to make their voices heard and to access loan and business opportunities.
The research highlights the devastating impact of the loss or sickness of a working equid on women and their families. It shows the importance of good equine welfare, as working equids in poor health, be it because they are overworked, suffer wounds, foot problems, or are not provided with adequate harnessing and access to nutritious food, shelter and water, are impaired in their ability to benefit women optimally. Therefore good equine welfare is not a luxury but a necessity for women and their families.