Few of the international workers’ welfare initiatives are really benefitting the workers of Indian apparel industry at the grassroot level as well as improving the overall output of factories too. One of them is HERproject of Business for Social Responsibility (BSR).
With offices in Asia, Europe and North America, BSR is a global non-profit organisation that works with its network of more than 250 member companies in various industries and other partners to build a just and sustainable world.
HERproject comprises of initiatives like HERfinance, HERrespect and HERhealth dedicated to women’s health, education and finance program that uses the factory setting and a peer-educator methodology to disseminate general and reproductive health information to female workers. Important and sensitive issues like proper communication, proper nutrition, hygiene, family planning, gender and relations, violence and relations, skill building are part of these projects.
Globally, many international brands are actively involved in this initiative and support it. Some such international brands are ASDA, Bestseller, M&S, American Eagle Outfitters, Columbia Sportswear Company, Levi Strauss & Co, Primark Stores, Ltd., VF Corporation, etc. These programs are benefitting the workers of the apparel manufacturing industry across many countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Pakistan, etc.; for example, ANN Inc. expanded its work with HERproject to include 58 factories in China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
In India, some of the well-known apparel exporters like Shahi Exports, Pearl Global Orient Craft, Richa Global Exports, Indian Designs, etc. are involved in these projects and their workers are really benefiting from the same. Orient Craft (Chopanki, Rajasthan) was the first company in India that piloted HERrespect.
According to the herproject.org, 97 per cent of managers across 11 factories in India felt that workers had an improved perception of the workplace after the company supported the HERfinance program, while 91 per cent of both women and men across 11 factories in India said that they saved a greater portion of their salary.
In fact, Richa Global Exports recently received Responsible Leadership 2018 Award from the Ascena Group Inc. for outstanding performance in the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programmes vis-à-vis Herhealth Project, Herfinance Project and energy management & saving programmes. Orient Craft was also appreciated by BSR and M&S at a recent event for smooth implementation of HERhealth and HERrespect.
“These efforts help to build harmonious relationships at the workplace. To start with kick meetings and baseline assessment, training of changemakers and outreach session, a complete process was followed in this regard. In our two factories, a total of 4,564 workers were covered under this project and 149 change makers were active to bring change,” Archana Tomar Mann VP – Compliance, CSR & T&D, Orient Craft shared her experience.
As a result of such programs overall, improvement in the health of workers and reduction in absenteeism also resulted in more productive factories.
Some of the major outcomes of this initiative include improved communication, increased confidence, and knowledge, better harmonious relations between workers and middle-level management, improved working environment, etc. Besides, change makers feel valued and well recognised in the factories. Reduced gender discrimination among workers, improved interpersonal relationship and improved sense of responsibility were also noticed in the workers.
The export houses spread the messages to its workers through street plays, poster-making competition and various celebrations. Similarly, videos related to HERrespect were also shown to factory’s canteen and dormitory. Representatives from brands too interacted with the workers on regular basis regarding various issues.
Increased and proper communication helped the workers to communicate about target planning on the shop floor. Gender equality also saw growth as after various sessions, more and more workers are now able to confidently communicate with the opposite gender without any hesitations; and they don’t discriminate between males and females at the workplace as even in their family.
“Earlier I used to use aggressive form of communication as I used to think that by being aggressive I can easily make them understand what I want to say but now I have realised that by being assertive also I can get my work done and after using assertive form of communication I have realised that co-workers respect me more and even the management has appreciated me for the change in my behaviour which was very motivating for me,” Shared Renu Tyagi, Supervisor from production department of the Orient Craft.
Some of the other operators of the Orient Craft do have a positive experience and find good change in themselves as they feel that these initiatives really helped them to have better bonding with the management.