For cotton growing women of Chah Hasnabad village, cotton is the lifeblood that supports their families. 86% of the village works in agriculture farming – mainly cotton and wheat. Women work in the fields as pickers as well as managing their households and own fields. The women face many forms of discrimination because of social and cultural norms and are unable to challenge this suppression and demand their rights at home and in the wider community.

43 year old Sughran Bibi is a resident of the village and works as a cotton picker in the nearby fields of a local landlord. She says

“We earn £1 a day for picking 20kg of cotton, which forced us to do hard labour and do more than the agreed work to attain the 20kg. Even when we pick the cotton we are sometimes paid less because of contamination of the picked cotton. To challenge the decisions of the landlord means you lose your job”.

Sughran helped form a Women’s Organisation (WO) in the village and is the elected president and is also part of the Producers Organisation (PO). She has participated in multi-stakeholder forum meetings and communicated directly with government officials. She has been a champion to increase picker’s wages and has met the landlord with her WO group twice to revise the wage rate and the payment method. They now receive 2p extra per kg picked and earn 54p more per day. The training has had a big impact on her personally.

“Before, we never sat together to discuss our problems. Now we have an effective platform to raise our issues such as wages. Decision making at the PO level had helped me convince my family to include me in household financial matters”

The women have also started a new business using the machine which purifies the cotton into refined fibres to make bedding.

“We never thought of collectively starting a business but since we have a platform, skills and equipment, we have started our own businesses to prepare and sell duvets and cushions, and are earning £2.80 a day.”

The project has had a clear impact of changing behaviour and attitudes towards Sughran not only in her village but also at the council level. Community members now recognise her as the president of the PO and accept her lead in the business.