Wear a Smile with … Mary Mbambu


Wearing a bathrobe to raise awareness for cotton farmers in Africa? Precisely! In the face of climate crises, tons of microplastic polluting the oceans and inhuman working conditions for people in the cultivating regions of cotton, coffee, rice and other commodities, it’s easy to get frustrated and think that we as individuals cannot change this. But we can. Cotton made in Africa shows how, and in a positive way – with the #BathrobeChallenge. Because the good thing is: Everybody can do something to change the world for the better. And sometimes, doing good can be easy! How so?

With the #BathrobeChallenge, CmiA sends a clear message: Everybody who joins in by wearing a bathrobe in public is taking a stand for the more than one million African cotton farmers who collaborate with CmiA. Mary Mbambu is one of them. Through Cotton made in Africa, she and her husband Baluku have participated in farmer trainings – and learned a lot about sustainable cultivation methods and gender equality. When talking to Mary about her experiences and knowledge gained through the trainings, one thing came directly to her mind: “We share the tasks”, she reports. “When I‘m not well, Baluku cooks for the kids or attends to other tasks that traditionally rather fall to women. We also talk about how we spend our money. For me, it was for example very important to cultivate food crops, next to cotton, to provide for our family. I could carry the argument home and now we even have a small pantry for our harvest.” Breaking with traditional gender roles and learning more about gender equality has made Mary something of a role model in her community. “Other women often approach me and ask how I learned so much”, she reports. “Then I tell them that the trainings in mixed training groups help me.”

Together with its partners and friends such as OTTO, Tchibo, WWF or Welthungerhilfe, CmiA is inviting everybody to join the #BathrobeChallenge and discover the world behind our textiles. The bathrobe has been chosen as a strong symbol for this mission as it exemplifies how much cotton is used in our clothes. As a fashion item however, the bathrobe is rarely present in public – just like the faces and stories of African cotton farmers like Mary. With the #BathrobeChallenge, CmiA wants to give African cotton farmers the recognition they deserve in international trade and give a positive, recognizable “face” to a hitherto anonymous mass product – cotton. When we met Mary at her home in Western Uganda and talked about the fun social media campaign we built around the bathrobe, she wanted to be a part of it and immediately put on a bathrobe – and her amazing smile.

Through partnering with CmiA, farmers can take part in a training programme and learn about efficient and sustainable agricultural as well as business methods, gender equality and the importance of stopping child labour. These trainings make it easier for farmers to protect nature and improve their living and working conditions themselves. Consumers can easily choose to support African cotton farmers like Mary and Baluku – and not just by wearing a bathrobe and spreading the word on sustainable cotton. Products that support the initiative wear a small red Cotton made in Africa label. This makes them easy to recognise and allows consumers to opt for products that make them smile – and share this smile with farmers and nature. A wide range of brands and retailers partner with CmiA and use CmiA certified cotton in their production. For a full list of partners, click here.

Discover more about the #BathrobeChallenge at www.bathrobechallenge.com

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