On this International Women’s Day 2022, Thunderpants wants to recognise the work done by women to make our business great. Here in New Zealand we value the role women play in every part of our supply chain. Locally as a living wage employer, we work hard to make sure women are given the opportunities they deserve, but this can be harder to achieve with our producers overseas.
So, we partner with Fairtrade because we know that they have systems in place to encourage female participation, decision making and empowerment in developing countries. As well as making sure the women farmers get paid fairly and are given a voice, they have specialised programs to encourage leadership by women.
Cotton is a heavily traded agricultural commodity with over 150 countries involved in exporting or importing it. It makes up nearly 30 percent of global production and has a history dating back over 8,000 years. Cotton also plays a major role in the economic and social development of developing and newly industrialised countries. It is an especially important source of employment and income in West and Central Africa, India, Pakistan and Central Asia. As many as 100 million rural households – 90 percent of them in developing countries – are directly engaged in cotton production, relying on it for their income.
For farmers, the challenges range from the impact of climate change, poor prices for seed cotton, through to competition from highly subsidised producers in rich countries and poor terms of trade. In particular, government subsidies for cotton farmers in rich countries, especially the US, create a market with artificially low prices that small-scale farmers are unable to compete in.
We are choosing to do business differently. We source Fairtrade cotton so we can be addressing these challenges directly and rigorously.
One of the ways Fairtrade farmers are trying to address poverty is through increasing the skills of the women in their communities. In celebration of International Women’s Day, and our partnership with Fairtrade, we want to tell you about Pratibha Vasudha.
Pratibha Vasudha is a Fairtrade cotton cooperative comprising 32,000 farmers in India. Vasudha translates as ‘Mother Earth’ and this represents Pratibha’s commitment to helping people and the environment
The cooperative has a strong focus on women’s empowerment and training activities to encourage women to become stakeholders in the decision-making process. Vasudha has also established a skill development centre where women learn additional craft skills such as tailoring and stitching to supplement their income, and is making efforts to enrol all girls in the community in the local schools. In 2009, the Vasudha Vidya Vihar school was built for the children of the farmers. Today, over 450 students attend the school, which offers education until the 12th grade. Farmers pay a nominal tuition fee and Fairtrade farmers get a 10 percent subsidy on the fee and an additional discount on sibling enrolment.
Another example of why we choose Fairtrade is the Pratima Organic Grower Group, which was founded in 2003 and became Fairtrade certified in 2010. It has more than 3,500 members who cultivate around 4,500 hectares of land.
Pratima used the Fairtrade Premium to establish a community centre. This provides extra space for families, and electricity for children to do their homework. Pratima also established a fund from which women’s self-help groups can seek loans to set up income-generating activities like brickmaking, tailoring and aquaculture initiatives. Farmers have also used the Fairtrade Premium for drinking water pumps, water-harvesting structures and farm ponds, and to provide seeds and other agricultural inputs to farmers. Women-only changing rooms have also been built by the ponds where villagers bathe. Pratima also provides 600–700 scholarships for school children every year using the Fairtrade Premium.
See, when women are empowered, the whole society benefits – less poverty, more food, more education. These are the cornerstone for why we choose Fairtrade and essential elements to a fairer world. A world we want to be part of.
Ngā mihi nui for helping make this future a reality.