Supporting Women in Rural Communities
Women’s empowerment is one of the key focus areas of our farmer livelihoods programme, which is crucial for inclusive and sustainable economic growth in rural communities
Lack of women’s empowerment in rural communities is a well-known root cause of child and forced labour. In 2023, BAT has undertaken a review of our existing approach and have developed a Women’s Empowerment Framework focusing on areas such as women and girls’ welfare and health, capacity building and how to create opportunities to improve livelihoods more generally – ones that bring the men along and help address cultural, or other barriers. We are both increasing the number of farmers engaged in women’s empowerment training and continuing with specific focused initiatives in countries where a need has been identified via our Thrive and Human Rights Impact Assessments.
Promoting gender equality initiatives and empowering rural women through decent work and productive employment, not only contributes to inclusive and sustainable economic growth, but also enhances the effectiveness of poverty reduction and food security initiatives, and can support climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
BAT’s Women’s empowerment Training Programme
At BAT, we source our tobacco from over 81,000 contracted farmers worldwide and support these farmers to enhance their and wider communities’ livelihoods by promoting women’s empowerment training and programmes. We do this by partnering with local organisations and stakeholders that can support us to deliver initiatives to empower women on farms.
In 2022, 29,366 people were reported to be engaged in women’s empowerment training in our tobacco supply chain¹.
Some examples of these actions around the world:
In Brazil, established in 2017, a tobacco sector programme called “Nós por Elas” (‘Us for them’), by the Growing Up Right Institute, promotes and shares good practice by featuring young women who graduated from the Apprenticeship Programme on local radio stations. This has involved 43 young women who aim to empower and engage more women in the programme through sharing their experiences and knowledge.
The project “Nakshi” (‘painting’ in Bengali), is a initiative between BAT Bangladesh and the Rangpur Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries (RWCCI). The aim is to build new and diverse skills for women working on farms, to encourage entrepreneurship and additional sources on income. This focused on handicraft training and mushroom cultivation and more than 300 women have been engaged in this initiative since 2021.
“I have been involved in handcrafts from an early age. Ever since I was a teenager, I knew sewing and a little bit of stitching. After my marriage, I got so absorbed in household work, I couldn’t work on handicrafts anymore. There was a constant regret of not developing my skills. Then I came to know about the Nakshi project, where I could learn about new techniques and revitalize my skills. I also learned entrepreneurship and tried to transform my skills into a revenue generating source. After the training, I feel more empowered and confident about myself.” – Beneficiary, Habiba Khatun
In 2022, Pakistan Leaf partnered with the National Rural Support Program (NRSP) focusing on community development through women’s empowerment and trained 7,800 contracted farmers families across all leaf regions in areas such as kitchen gardening, child labour prevention, and health and safety. During these trainings, kitchen gardening seeds were provided to 30% of farmer families, encouraging them to contribute to the family income.
In Kenya, following focus group discussions with farmers and their spouses to gain insight into what matters to them, women’s development and health was identified as a key area in catalysing the advancement of rural women in society, achieving improvements in household incomes and preventing child labour. Following this engagement, BAT Kenya rolled out the Rural Women Development Programme (RuWDep) in 2023, by training 285 women in the first phase. The RuWDep targets to engage more than 1,600 women by 2025 from the Oyani and Malakisi tobacco leaf growing communities who are either women farmers contracted by BAT Kenya or spouses of contracted farmers. Through the programme BAT Kenya aims to champion women’s rights and welfare, capacity building on sustainable agriculture and business management, as well as entrepreneurship development.
¹ 'Tobacco Supply Chain', refers to the tobacco supplied by our directly contracted farmers and those of our strategic third party suppliers, who participate in our annual Thrive assessment, representing over 80% of the tobacco purchased by BAT Group companies by volume in 2022.