#BeBoldForChange: Empowering women in cotton growing communities

This year, International Women’s Day demands that we stand up to inequality and #BeBoldForChange. And, while the World Economic Forum predicts it will take 116 years before the gender gap closes, CottonConnect has proven that placing gender equality at the heart of the global cotton industry creates powerful change. Change that is financially successful and socially and environmentally sustainable.

CottonConnect has found that making gender equality a foundation of the cotton trade will see an improvement in profits and quality of cotton yield, improved health, social benefits and education and lower pesticide and water use. In short, empowering women will strengthen, sustain and deliver a viable future for cotton.

The REEL Cotton Programme run by CottonConnect over a three-year period in Gujurat, India – the world’s second largest cotton producer – has found results far exceed expectations with smallholders enjoying average profit up 211% compared with a sample of conventional farmers not receiving the training.

Cotton is the most widely used natural fibre in the world, most prominently in the global fashion industry, it’s production supports 250 million people globally and consumer demand for transparent, responsibly sourced cotton is rapidly growing.

But women in the global cotton industry continue to work every day, unpaid on family farms, or as underpaid or unpaid laborers, which is one of the reasons that the United Nations has placed gender equality, and the empowerment of all women and girls, as its fifth Sustainable Development Goal. This has led to international brands taking notice and addressing the value of sustainability and transparency as a route to brand trust and continued financial success.

CottonConnect’s Women Empowerment Programme

CottonConnect has devised and delivered a gender equality training programme, educating women in rural cotton growing communities across a range of essential topics, including health, education, social rights, sustainable cotton growing, best practice for farming methods, market demand and supply chains.

Furthermore, the women’s status, often considered as inferior in India’s rural patriarchal society, is transformed; their new found knowledge from CottonConnect, the increase in cotton yield and profit, gave these women the confidence to have a voice and be heard, to invest in their own children’s education and, ultimately, sow the seeds of a healthier, better-educated and more liberal community.

Alison Ward, CEO at CottonConnect and a female business leader who champions the International Women’s Day appeal to #BeBoldForChange:

“It has been proven time and again that gender equality is not simply a moral issue. When women are empowered to take care of themselves, make decisions, take charge of land and their finances, not only does their household income grow, the entire community economy benefits.”

Khaileshben Mukher Thakor was married and a mother by 18, she worked for many years on her husband’s ten acres of cotton-producing land, before enrolling with CottonConnect. She claims it dramatically changed her life:

“I had no confidence, but through this programme I realised I could help my family. With the money I saved from what I learnt, we have built a new house, bought a tractor and pay for my child’s studies. My mother-in-law has respect for me and gives me full rights to the house.”

CottonConnect works with local cotton producers and global brands to deliver and manage a sustainable future that will transform the worldwide cotton market. Ensuring supply chains provide effective business, foster environmental sustainability and provide fair social benefits for smallholder farmers, local communities, retailers and brands. CottonConnect provides the tools and networks for global brands to work towards, meet and exceed the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals set for 2030.

India cotton farmer taking part in sustainable cotton training

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