International Women’s Day is always a day for celebration at CottonConnect, as we recognize the capable women leaders within our own and partner organizations, and renew our focus on improving the lives of women in cotton farming communities. This International Women’s Day, we want to give an insight into a day in our Women in Cotton programme, and the tangible changes that can occur when businesses intentionally choose to put women at the centre of their Rebuild Better strategies.
As a Field Coordinator of CottonConnect’s sustainable cotton programmes in Pakistan, I am involved in organizing the training for our Women in Cotton programme. The programme includes health and wellbeing topics such as 1) The importance of clean drinking water; 2) Nutrition in adolescent girls; and 3) Health and hygiene.
We find that once we have gained the trust of women and their families with the health and wellbeing training, we are then able to provide advice on other topics, for example setting up Self-Help groups, and savings committees which promote financial resilience.
Women enrolled in the Women in Cotton programme meet in learning groups, and the training is facilitated by a representative from a trusted local implementation partner.
It is reported that 30% of diseases and 40% of deaths are linked to unclean water, and yet only around 56% of people in Pakistan have access to clean drinking water. The training covers the outcomes of drinking unclean water, and practices for preventing diseases, with an emphasis upon personal hygiene, water hygiene, food hygiene, and hygiene during waste handling.
Child nutrition is another important topic since under-nutrition effectives the growth rate, body weight and ultimately height of children. Under-nourished children have less energy and reduced interest in learning, which effects academic performance. The women in the learning group are briefed about the nutrients that every child should be getting on a daily basis, being protein, carbohydrates, fats, calcium, iron, Foliate, fiber, vitamin A and C.
The training includes house visits to provide practical demonstrations of cleaning kitchens and washrooms. After the visits, we come back to the meeting place to review the day and assign some follow-up tasks.
The Women in Cotton programme complements the training women farmers receive on sustainable agriculture practices, which help improve crop planting, water management and pest control, reducing input costs and increasing yields.
It’s most rewarding when women farmers, such as Azeema featured in our video, say to other women: “I want to encourage women who are not in our group to join us and learn from our experiences. By being part of the group, your income will increase and your expenses will decrease.”
As businesses look to Rebuild Better, it is important to seek out partners with expertise that really focus on improving women’s livelihoods, which in turn increases the resilience of wider communities.
Listen to Rudrani Oza, Senior Manager Farm Innovations, CottonConnect podcast interview
Read more about the impact of climate change on women cotton farmers Women in Cotton: Listening to Women’s Voices on the Effects of Climate Change