Empowering women in cotton growing communities
Women play a key role in cotton growing communities. With a strong involvement in both the planting and harvesting, their position helps to determine the quantity, quality, and sustainability of cotton farming. Yet, too often their contributions go unacknowledged and women have limited access to technical background, are absent from decision making and do not have sufficient income to supplement their livelihoods.
At CottonConnect, women are a key focus and we are aiming to improve gender equality and rights by balancing local knowledge with international expertise. Empowering women can strengthen the cotton sector as a whole, and through our forward-looking approach we are aiming to improve the rights of women in global cotton growing communities.
Our ‘Women in Cotton’ programme targets women farmers, helping them establish businesses to increase income during the low season. While also providing background in literacy, numeracy, rights and health, women are able to take advantage of increased livelihood opportunities. Without such efforts, just 4% of women join any form of training programme that can assist them as farmers. Furthermore, by building demand for sustainable cotton, CottonConnect ensures that women and their families have access to a strong market. We have also partnered with other industry initiatives such as the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Yoganjali Kelvani Mandal (YKM) and Hua Dan – each supporting us on our mission to build strong supply chains.
Strengthening their role requires a nuanced understanding of how gaps between men and women manifest across different communities. To explore this, we conducted a detailed gendered value chain mapping in six communities in India and China, the details of which are explained in our latest report – ‘Women in Cotton: Findings from a Gendered Value Chain Mapping’. The gender mapping exercise aimed to explore the significant differences in women’s responsibilities across cotton growing communities, enabling the identification of targeted responses in each location.
Some of the key findings include:
- Xinjiang, China: large plot sizes make cotton more profitable and appealing for men, thus women participate in simple farm work. However, women have stronger involvement in communities with CottonConnect programming.
- Gujarat, India: high availability of migrant workers reinforces gendered division of tasks. Males tend to support roles requiring heavy labour, whereas women tend to work on tasks requiring greater attention to detail.
- Madhya Pradesh, India: due to scattered and remote areas with little outside labour, men and women are more likely to participate in joint tasks at all stages of cotton production.
Mapping gender differences helps to identify specific opportunities to drive women’s economic empowerment, and can help businesses achieve Sustainable Development Goal number five – improving gender equality. Addressing the challenges faced by women also ensures we have a viable cotton industry in the future, given that cotton is one of the most widely used natural fibres in the world.
Improving gender equality in the global cotton industry creates powerful change, help us spread the word by sharing ‘Women in Cotton: Findings from a Gendered Value Chain Mapping’ with your networks. Please feel free to use the tweets below: