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The 5th Sustainable Development Goal by the UN is Gender Equality and Women Empowerment. It aims at:

  • Ending all forms of discrimination;
  • Equal rights to economic resources;
  • Equal access to technology;
  • Ensuring women’s participation in decision making;
  • Promotion of gender equality;



According to the United Nations, women are just 13% of all agricultural land-holders. Ensuring that women get equal opportunities will drive sustainable economic development at societies at large.

Bayeh (2016) states that empowering women is set on 4 pillars: Economic, Social, Political and Environmental.

Without Economic empowerment, it is unthinkable that women can surpass other barriers and become more socially active and political members of their communities. Guaranteeing the generation of income by women is one of the first steps to ensure their development.

Suen (2013) reiterated that educating women generates additional benefits due to women passing their knowledge onto the next generation. This makes women a far more powerful agent in the sustainable development communities. Enabling women to pursue their personal development will transform the skills of their families. An old African Proverb says that “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation”.

Women Tobacco Farming (Case Studies):

Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul)

  • Survey takers felt that tobacco was the only source of profitable income (Economic empowerment)
  • Income derived from tobacco farming enabled women and their families to purchase high-cost items: to build a house, acquire a vehicle, send children to school and have access to other material goods;
  • Due to the historical context of tobacco farming in the region, the activity has become a part of the community, with women having family ties with the business.

Women Tobacco Farming: Southern Brazil (Reis MM et al., 2017)

Reasons to grow the crop:

  • Guaranteed market (ensures the family’s income)
  • The profitability of the crop (especially on smallholding farms)
  • The existence of technical and financial support during cultivation
  • Lack of alternatives, difficulty accessing credit and indebtedness to tobacco companies

Reports from tobacco farmers:

  • “Production of food crops is only for big farmers, while smallholders are left with tobacco.”
  • “A hectare of tobacco guarantees your survival, while other crops with the same amount of land don’t guarantee survival.”
  • “Diversification really is necessary. If people had alternatives with the same quality of life, they’d stop planting.”

Women Tobacco Farming (Lee & Hu, 2016)

  • Women spend, at the very least, the same amount of time as men on tobacco farming, they generally spent more time.
    • In China: Women (6 to 8+ hours) and Men (4 to 5 hours).
  • Unequal pay: Men earned US$ 11 per day, while Women earned US$ 8 per day.
  • Women accompany their spouses to the tobacco sales to ensure that the income earned is not spent in the way home.
  • In African Countries, the sale of tobacco and revenue collection is mostly associated with man, with women taking a minor role.

Tobacco farming as an empowerment tool.

  • Tobacco farming was stated as one of the few viable crops.
  • Tobacco can be stored for months without rotting; the income is received in bulk.
  • Tobacco works as a tool for the emancipation of women by providing them with income to invest in their education. It will act as the stepping-stone into a better future.
  • Neglecting the economic needs of women is a threat to their independence.


  • Bayeh, E. (2016). The role of empowering women and achieving gender equality to the sustainable development of Ethiopia. Pacific Science Review B: Humanities and Social Sciences, 2, 37-42.
  • Suen, S. (2013). The education of women as a tool in development. Hydra 1 (2), 60-76
  • Reis Marcelo Moreno dos, Oliveira Ana Paula Natividade de, Turci Silvana Rubano Barretto, Dantas Renato
  • Maciel, Silva Valéria dos Santos Pinto da, Gross Cátia et al . Knowledge, attitudes, and practices of women farmers concerning tobacco agriculture in a municipality in Southern Brazil. Saúde Pública.×00080516
  • Fernandes, F. C. (N.A.) Human Rights Situation of Women Tobacco Growers in the State of Rio Grande do Sul. Gender and Tobacco Resear Projects in Brazil.
  • Hu, T. & Lee, H. A. (2016). Women in Tobacco Farming: Health, Inequality, and Empowerment – A study conducted in China, Tanzania and Kenya. Center for International Tobacco Control. Oakland: Public Health Institute.