How the Tobacco Industry Exploits Women’s Empowerment

A vital thought struck me when my close friends and I exchanged thoughts recently. When we were teenagers, most of our problems were due to our shy attitude. We barely thought about the consequences of our actions, we got into trouble or felt embarrassed for the stupidest things, like turning in homework late or coming to school late and having to attend prayer in front of us. the door.

However, the pattern did not last long.

When we grew up, our twenties had a different flavor. We started thinking about bigger issues like societal acceptability, lifestyle choices, work-life balance, financial investment and more. I am proud to see that not only my friends and I, but many other young people of this age have started thinking about decisions that really matter.

As women, we all have this vision of how we want to see ourselves in our thirties, which is perceived as the golden age to perform and excel. We’ve kind of acclimated ourselves as confident, working for a purpose, willing to take risks, and most importantly, able to hold our own – in all areas.

While we were reflecting on all this, on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2022, Nada Young India Network (NYIN) held a webinar on the topic Controlling tobacco and alcohol improves gender equality. I was happy to have had the chance to be present among so many successful young women during the event.

I take this opportunity to share my thoughts with the wider audience here with this blog.

This year, the theme for Women’s Day is to imagine an equal world.

When we talk about defending ourselves, do we know that we all have the right to live and grow in a healthy environment to which we are entitled? We can even talk about any factor that constitutes an obstacle in this environment.

On a daily basis, we interact with our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and the public. In such an interaction, if you or someone inflicts an action that compromises your quality of health, we must be able to realize the harm and act accordingly.

This year, the theme for Women’s Day is to imagine a gender-equal world – a world free from prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination, a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.

As we dwell on our conversation about women, especially young women and their health, I would like to touch on a few important points.

The exploitation of women by the tobacco and alcohol lobby

Tobacco and liquor companies co-opted women’s movements. (Source: pixahive)

Tobacco and alcohol companies exploit women’s fight for equal rights by making it seem like tobacco makes women more confident, more vocal and more in control of their own destiny, says a WHO report. The tobacco industries also do inaccurate health claims that some cigarettes are “light” or “mild”, adapted to women’s needs and safe for health.

In some countries, tobacco and alcohol companies sponsor beauty contests, sporting and artistic events, and even women’s organizations to encourage young women to use these substances. These industries are involved in many CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities and this greatly disturbs us as to their motivation and the cause they promote.

Our guest speaker for the webinar, Ms. Varsha, National Inspection and Monitoring Committee Member, PCPNDT Section, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, National Commission for Women Panel Advocate, Dalit Secretary Mahila Vikas Mandal, Satara also addressed this troubling issue.

She said that substances like tobacco and alcohol only inflict self-harm or harm others. It is one of the main factors of violence against women and young girls.

Keeping Farmers at the Front for Profit

We may have all seen advertisements sponsored by the tobacco industry opposing tobacco control, saying that the farmer livelihoods is hurt because of it.

Panelists also raised the issue of mistreatment of most farmers by tobacco companies and in the face of health risks to work in the crop field. They do not benefit from any security measures or any other means of employment that could guarantee their lives. They are trapped.

Women working in a beedi factory. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

It’s the same for Bedi workers. This industry employs almost 50 lakh of home-based workers. Their main motivation is to earn enough to send their children to school. This industry also poses a huge health risk and exploits women.

What attracts young people to alcohol and tobacco?

Ms Varsha said the modern idea of ​​looking cool and the need to be able to socialize easily, feel inclusive and adapt to this fast-paced fashion outlook is one of the main reasons.

We need to teach our young girls the harms of such a notion and how obviously the burning desire to feel socially acceptable is not important. Parental education and monitoring are important, as well as primary education which exposes these culturally insignificant aspects of a young individual’s growth.

For example, when watching IPL at home, parents should educate their children about tobacco and alcohol brands and advertisements that keep popping up for promotions.

In the process of so-called modernization, let us not forget our culture and our values ​​because they will be our security in many ways. These substances can easily control us, but we can certainly take control of the changing environment around us and not let the first one happen.

Smoking cigarettes is dangerous for health.

Alcohol and tobacco addiction is the longest pandemic our country has fought. We cannot expect our country to develop on its own. Young men and women like us who are part of huge networks like NYIN can become leaders and build a healthy nation for all.

Voices of young women

Nada Young India Network is one such platform that provides space for young people to raise awareness, express themselves, support each other and create healthy spaces for each other. Nearly 60% of NYIN members are women. While we try to maintain our best balance with gender diversity, we also give our best support to all women and girls.

NYIN is a platform that strives to connect different people and address the diverse concerns of young people. It understands their economic, social and educational differences and empowers them to break away from being perceived as vulnerable.

In conclusion, NYIN collectively asks everyone to #BreakTheBias. We don’t want to be treated as vulnerable. There are opportunities and platforms for young women like us to become aware and aware of their health.

In the words of our President, Mr. Suneel Vatsyayan, “It is not enough if we only empower our women, we must also empower our men, so that the former can be achieved in an egalitarian society.”

Join us at NYIN to celebrate the achievements of women not just on a special day, but every day of the year with volunteerism and community action to work towards a healthy society across the country and the world and raise awareness. against the damage caused by alcohol and tobacco to health and will act for equality and good health.

Mara R. Wilmoth