Women's health, equality and empowerment in tobacco farming - findings from two counties in Yunnan, China
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Yunnan Pioneers for Health Consultancy Centre, China
Yunnan Academy of Social Science, Gender and Development Research Centre, China
Kunming Medical University, School of Pulic Health, China
Center for International Tobacco Control Research at the Public Health Institute, United States of America
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A523
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Research takes place in Yunnan, the most important tobacco producing province in China, to gather empirical evidence of women´s role in tobacco farming.

Research adopts mixed methods. Quantitative data was collected with structured questionnaire while qualitative data was obtained through individual interviews and focus group discussions. Participatory research method was employed as well in order to better understand the workload of women.
Due to sensitivity of tobacco control in Yunnan, respondents had to be reached through personal contacts. Thus a convenience sampling method was used. The information was collected from a sample of 436 female tobacco farmers in two counties in October - November 2015.

Women spend 50% of working hours on tobacco farming. In tobacco farming season, women work 16+ hours a day and on average they spend 2-3 hours more than their husbands on tobacco farming. 50.1% of respondents had to hire temporary help and 58.0% had to exchange labour (without pay) with neighbours / relatives for tobacco farming. 62.4% of respondents borrowed money for tobacco farming. The average income from tobacco farming is US$1,490, accounting for about 26-35% of the household income.
Respondents experienced discomforts while growing and picking tobacco leaf, but did not associate these discomforts with tobacco farming. 50.5% of respondents were not aware of negative health effect of tobacco farming.
There is no mechanism or entity representing tobacco farmers to bargain with the tobacco corporation. Instead, farmers lost autonomy over farming activity under the pressure of both government and tobacco corporation. Women are even more vulnerable because they rarely participate in decision making at community and above levels although they have significant power over family finance and household farming activity..

Being at the bottom of exploitation chain, women lack awarness, knowledge, resource and mechanism to address their health and economic concerns in tobacco farming.