Today is International Women’s Day 2021, a global event to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. At the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), we are celebrating women’s achievements by sharing inspiring stories from the field, reflecting on and reinforcing our goals on gender equality in cotton, and sharing resources with our peers and members.

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day (IWD), marked annually on 8 March, is a call to action to accelerate progress and awareness about gender equality. IWD dates back to 1911, and over a hundred years later we’re still far from a world of gender equality.

What does this mean for BCI?

Gender inequality remains a pressing challenge in the cotton sector. Globally, women in cotton production take on varied, essential roles, but their labour is often unrecognised and under-remunerated. Where the contributions of women remain invisible, their critical role in adopting more sustainable practices, and creating a transformed, equitable cotton future, is missed. For example, a 2018-19 study in in Maharashtra, India revealed that only 33% of women cotton cultivators surveyed had attended training in the last two years. Yet, when training was provided to women, there was a 30-40% increase in adoption of better farming practices. There is a clear business case to create better access to resources and knowledge for women in cotton. As an industry leader, BCI has an opportunity to address these challenges and to integrate gender equality as a cornerstone of sustainable cotton.

Learn more!

Stories from the Field

Women in cotton farming communities can face significant discrimination and challenges, partly as a result of pre-existing social attitudes and beliefs about gender roles. BCI and our partners seek to ensure equal and respectful treatment for all women in cotton farming communities, and today, we’d like to celebrate women’s achievements by sharing stories from the field from Pakistan and Mali.

Following her mother’s footsteps, Ruksana Kausar married a cotton farmer when she was young. Like many women in her community — where cotton communities farm the land to survive — Ruksana works hard on her family’s cotton farm, sowing seeds, weeding the fields and picking cotton amid the searing heat of Punjab. Learn more about Ruksana’s journey.



Since 2010, Tata Djire has worked for BCI’s on-the-ground partner in Mali, Association des Producteurs de Coton Africains, where she introduced the BCI Programme. Tata was instrumental to the success of the BCI Programme in Mali, supporting smallholder farmers and women in agriculture. Learn more about Tata’s journey.



Meet Pakistani cotton Farmer Almas Parveen and hear about her inspiring journey, enabling other farmers — both men and women — to benefit from sustainable agricultural practices. Almas regularly gives talks to girls in schools, and she helped to establish a new primary school in her village. Learn more about Almas’ journey.



BCI Gender Strategy and Working Group

The BCI Gender Strategy, published in November 2019, outlines our action plan to mainstream a gender sensitive approach. The strategy presents the context, challenges and opportunities for men and women in cotton. BCI also launched a cross-functional Gender Working Group in July 2020. The purpose of the Group is to: establish shared accountability for delivering BCI’s Gender Strategy, create learning and leadership opportunities for all participants, support the development of BCI’s 2030 strategy and impact targets, and action new opportunities and partnerships.


This week, Business Fights Poverty is hosting a free, online Gender Summit on 9, 10 & 11 March with guest speakers tackling the following themes – “Unleashing Enterprise”, “Tackling Gender-Based Violence”, and “Building Farmer Livelihoods.” To register, just follow this link.

Celebrate International Women’s Day with us online! We will be sharing updates throughout the week. Join the conversation. #GenerationEquality #ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021

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