At Cotton On Body we’ve made an ongoing commitment to ethical and sustainable sourcing. In 2016, Cotton On Group became one of the first Australian retailers to join the Better Cotton Initiative. Through our membership with BCI, we are supporting Better Cotton Farmers to grow cotton in a way that cares for the environment and aims to improve the livelihoods and welfare of farming communities. One of the challenges BCI sees in cotton production, is gender inequality. BCI are working hard to address this issue by supporting women cotton farmers and workers.
In cotton production, women are more likely to undertake the least skilled work and they are vulnerable to lower wages then men for the same work. In Pakistan, cultural forces combine to perpetuate issue. For example, women often have less voice in their community and families, and the men tend to lead the decision making. In the country’s cotton sector, women perform much of the manual labour but yet few are recognized as farmers or make management decisions.
In Pakistan, BCI’s Partner, the Rural Education Economic and Education Development Society (REEDS), seeks to create an environment to encourage both men and women to join its learning groups. Shama Bibi was one of these cotton farmers. Despite resistance from her family, she became a part of the REEDS Learning Group, steadily building confidence and farming knowledge. Her learnings included how to spray chemicals safely, replacing conventional pesticides with natural substances and promoting decent work. A year on Shama is running her farm profitably and is able to provide for her eight dependants.
According to the REEDS executive director, the opportunity to share and build knowledge through the Better Cotton project inspires women to invest in their own daughters education, become involved in entrepreneurship groups and scale up business activities. As they gain confidence and leadership skills, women also gain more respect in the community and become more involved in farm decision making.
“I have learnt a lot through my discussions with learning group members. Next year, I am expecting to achieve a higher yield and better profitability,” Shama said.
By the end of 2017, REEDS plans to reach more than 7,300 female workers and 50 female farmers in the rural districts of Rahim Yar Khan and Vehari.
Click here to read more about Cotton On Body’s commitment to BCI, ethics & sustainability.
Photo Credit: Better Cotton Initiative.