International Women’s Rights, Farming, and Natural Fibres


Bangladeshi_women_sewing_clothes

International Women’s Rights are, not-so surprisingly, knitted together, intimately, with natural fibres in terms of harvesting and general farming. How is this so?

Well, this, as well, needs a little background with respect to the international community because women’s rights are not limited by national boundaries. It’s international after all. And natural fibres were important enough to devote an entire year to, through a United Nations Organ, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.[i]

How does the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations self-define?

Our three main goals are: the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and, the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.[ii]

Right there, you have an alignment with Trusted Clothes: ethical and sustainable. A part of this connects to the component relevant to us, and our mission – clothing, especially natural fibre-based clothing.

Take into account, we do not exist in a vacuum. Our lovely, and wonderful, writers, more formal, (bloggers, more informal,) come from all over the world, and that reflects the international character of the explicit calls for provisions for women and for the desire for natural fibre materials for clothing and other productions.

For instance, every year “farmers harvest around35 million tonnes of natural fibres from a wide range of plants and animals – from sheep, rabbits, goats, camels and alpacas, from cotton bolls, abaca and sisal leaves and coconut husks, and from the stalks of jute, hemp, flax and ramie plants.”[iii]  That’s a lot of natural fibre, and many, many sources for its harvest.

How does this tie into the United Nations? It’s Charter. Chapter I, Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations states:

To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion [iv]

And some of the economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian items of interest relate to things like manufacture and production of materials for clothes and other things. That includes synthetic fibres, and natural fibres. How much?

There are “10 million people in the cotton sector in West and Central Africa, 4 million small-scale jute farmers in Bangladesh and India, one million silk industry workers in China, and 120 000 alpaca herding families in the Andes.”[v]  Okay, so we have the major organization, our organization, the UN, and statistics on the number of workers, so what?

Photo credit: Aid by Trade Foundation

Photo credit: Aid by Trade Foundation

Many of these workers are women and, in fact, are as efficient as the men, but do not achieve the same yield rate for the output. That sounds like a paradox, or something contradictory. As it turns out, the reason is not innate or anything like that; rather, it is the amount of resources given to the women in these contexts that limits their yield.[vi] And this connects to international women’s rights how?

International women’s rights become relevant here because no major discernible difference in farming ability from biology, but from provision for production based on sex. In short, environment not biology. That’s the fundamental character of “in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character.”[vii] So, we have to work together, directly or indirectly, for the solution to this inequity.

Even further, Men and women in Agriculture: Closing the gap states:

The most thorough studies also attempt to assess whether these differences are caused by difference in input use, such as improved seeds, fertilizers and tools, or other factors such as access to extension services and education. And the vast majority of this literature confirms that women are just as efficient as men. They simply do not have access to the same inputs, productive resources and services.[viii]

Furthermore, and according to the same authoritative source, women can comprise as much as 70% of agriculture, in Southeast Asia, to as little as 20%, in Latin America, with an average of 43% of the total agricultural workforce in developing countries.[ix]

So we have the United Nations Charter, the Food and Agriculture Organization for the United Nations, Trusted Clothes, millions of workers and so millions of consumers, natural fibres, and women as productive as men but with less yield and lower employment rates. Take at once, this means something quite simple. Women aren’t being included as equally as they could be included in this economic and productivity area, and we’re bound internationally to help out. And there’s a huge industry, and therefore demand, for natural fibres; and that means the concomitant labor as well.

[i] Food and Agriculture Organization for the United Nations. (2009). Natural Fibre. Retrieved from natural fibres.

[ii] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2016). About FAO. Retrieved from fao.org. 

[iii] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2009). . Retrieved from natural fibres.

[iv] United Nations. (n.d.). Chapter I. Retrieved from UN.org

[v] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2009). Why Natural Fibres?. Retrieved from natural fibres.

[vi] The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2009). Why Natural Fibers?: A Responsible Choice. Retrieved from natural fibres.

[vii] United Nations. (n.d.). Chapter I. Retrieved from UN.org

[viii] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (n.d.). Men and women in agriculture: closing the gap. Retrieved from fao.org

[ix] Ibid.

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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