As the world celebrates the International Women’s Day, tobacco farming still remains to be a threat to more women in the world, especially in Low-and-middle-income countries.
According to the “Women in Tobacco Farming: Health, Equality and Empowerment” study that was conducted by the Public Health Institute in three tobacco producing countries: China, Tanzania and Kenya, women put in the same or more labour than men, while also maintaining the household and serving as the main child care providers. The study suggested that the harmful health impacts of tobacco farming were more serious for women since many face respiratory challenges, nausea, skin irritation, injuries, while others fell hard due to hard labour, as others experienced miscarriages because of working in these farms while expectant.
Additionally, few women farmers in Kenya and Tanzania had any financial decision-making power. In Kenya and Tanzania, land titles are held by men who made all the decisions on what to grow and collected and spent revenue from tobacco. This left women without access to credit, unable to prioritize spending on their family, and experiencing domestic violence around the time when the tobacco leaves are sold.
Incidentally, women in all three countries felt manipulated by the tobacco companies.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) FCTC, tobacco farming poses serious risks to the human health and to the environment. Due to this, Article 17 of the WHO FCTC aims to ensure the provision of support for economically viable alternative livelihoods to tobacco workers, growers and individual sellers. And as the study suggests, women involved in tobacco growing need to be supported to improve their livelihood and engage in other economically viable alternatives.