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The women from the Once Upon A Doug project!

A Bleak Picture

Gender equality and women’s rights have gained massive publicity in recent times, as New Zealand and other Western countries attempt to improve the gulf between men and women. In developing Asian countries however, this is not always the case, and although small improvements have been seen, gender equality is still a long way off. Countries at the heart of the textile industry, such as India and Bangladesh, are two examples. Here, men hold such an esteemed standing that in the saddest of cases, baby girls are dumped and abandoned simply because they were not a boy. In these countries men are preferred for many reasons, such as traditionally being seen as heirs to a family’s property, business and wealth; whereas women are traditionally married off with an expensive dowry. Not only costing the parents money and/ or property, the women are effectively leaving their family and therefore are not able to care for the aging parents in later life. This unfortunately created a ‘culture’ that has spread into other areas of society.

It’s no wonder that women make up the majority of oppressed workers in the textile industry. With horror stories of disgraceful working conditions, physical and sexual abuse, and long hours for next to no pay, perhaps the most startling atrocity is that some women don’t even realise they have rights. Such is the ‘culture’ that gender equality campaigners are advocating against. When looking at failures in women’s rights, you cannot go beyond the fast fashion industry – one of the worst offenders in the world.

A Fresh Hope

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year and has been adopted as a national holiday in many East Asian, Africian, and former Soviet Union countries. Known as a day to celebrate the achievement of women, it is also a day for a collective call to action to improve gender equality in those countries still lagging behind. It represents an opportunity to take note of the current standing, but also to look back on significant advancements that are improving the lives of so many women. We will look at two such examples from India, which are changing the face of the textile industry, and providing hope to many.


The first of these are the Fairtrade and Organic certifications governing the production of cotton and manufacturing of clothing. Although initially only pertaining to the cotton manufacturing process, in 2016 an additional Fairtrade textile standard was introduced, extending the Fairtrade approach to the entire textile supply chain. Further, the GOTS certification compliments the Fairtrade certification, giving more coverage during textile production. More than simply an organic cotton guarantee, this certification covers all stages (from field to fashion), and ensures strict social requirements are met, including no forced or child labour. Coupled together, these certifications establish a much better working environment, with fairer remunerations, for an overall better lifestyle. They ensure men and women are treated equally in their workplaces, as well as women being assured of their human rights.

Once Upon A Doug

Those certifications do a fantastic job covering supply chains, but there are still areas that can be missed. In a previous blog post, The Forgotten Widows , we introduced you to a shocking fallout in India’s cotton farming industry. With cotton farmers needing to take out loans just to continue production, when crops fail or prices drop, these loans became unmanageable and some farmers took their own lives. This of course leaves a lot of widows who now must look after the land and manage the loans. With little assistance from the local government, they are left with very little rights. But the ‘Once Upon A Doug’ project is their shining light. Once Upon A Doug is changing the lives of cotton producing women in India, giving them a second chance. Through making and selling ‘Dougs’, these women now have a way to supplement their income. And you can help them too! We have Dougs on their way for the first time – the cool little accessories these women make and sell to supplement their incomes. You can purchase yours today – they make fantastic gifts! What more, Dougs are not for profit, meaning any profit we make goes directly back to the project! A simple gesture that makes a huge difference, we hope you will consider getting involved! To find out more about ‘Once Upon A Doug’ and/ or to donate directly to the project, click here.

We have three of the many examples of the difference Once Upon A Doug is having:

She is happy to be able to have savings from Doug and it gives her some peace of mind. Shilpa - Once Upon A Doug

Through Doug she has experienced financial help, higher appreciation from family and pride. Suchita - Once Upon A Doug

With the money she earns from Doug she is able to pay tuition fee for her kids and buy them treats and gifts once in a while. Her husband respects her due to her financial support and is happy that she is independent. Varsha - Once Upon A Doug

The Competition!

As you can see, women’s rights and their overall standard of living are greatly improving thanks to these new practices in and around the textile industry in India. Through supporting us and the brands we support, you are part of that change too! Thank you!

However, there is always more that can be done. And that is where you come in! We would love to hear your ideas on improvements you believe can and should be implemented. You are only limited by your imagination, so feel free to suggest ideas relating to any areas of the fashion industry. For example, changes in the cotton fields or garment factories in India, new laws or guidelines being implemented in New Zealand, or something Tummah could do differently.

Entering is easy, just add your answer to the comment section at the bottom of this page. On Thursday 8th March (International Women’s Day), we will pick a winner who we think has the best answer, and they will win a $50 store voucher. That’s not all though, there will also be two $20 vouchers up for grabs for 2 other people who have entered, drawn at random.

We would love to do a follow up post about all the wonderful ideas you come up with. And you never know, we could potentially look at taking some steps to put some of these ideas into action.

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