"They say women are delicate creatures...so then why do we pick cotton?"

“Women grow and pick cotton. Everyone says women are delicate creatures. What delicacy is there in this work? If the cotton shell stabs me, it's like it stabs my heart. Think about how often we have to touch the cotton in oder to pick a bushel,” says Rena Khanim of Aghjabedi region. 

Wrapped up to protect against heat, dust and the cotton plants, only the women's eyes remain uncovered.  Even their eyes can't bee seen as they bend forward to pick the cotton.

Businessman Sabir Mammadov says, “cotton and cotton farmers have no value. I've been in the cotton business since 1955. Before, the workers were valuable. During the time of Heydar Aliyev, he valued its importance. Now, no one cares about his plan.”

These women collect 15 qepiks per kilogram of cotton.  They say the money barely makes the work worth their while: 

“They should raise the price a little. Workers would be happy and they would work with passion. There's no work around here. Everybody poured their hopes into this desert. I have paid the price. People's heads are always down, bent over. How much can a person work under this sun? We're suffering from head and back pain.”

Ms. Metanet shows us a cotton ball: “I have goiter in my throat this big. When I bend, I feel like my throat is going to explode, but what can I do? I have to work because there is no other choice,” she says. 

According to cotton-growers, a bag weighs 10-12 kilos. Every time they are out in the field they have to carry more than three sacks.

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