CELEBRATING 100,000 WOMEN EMPOWERED
In 2014, Ann Taylor, LOFT, and Lou & Grey, committed to empowering 100,000 women in our global supply chain through providing health or financial literacy training. We fulfilled our promise and we are now celebrating the 100,000 women that have been empowered through this commitment.

ABOUT THE 100,000 WOMEN COMMITMENT

We believe every woman deserves a chance to be her best self every day. In 2014, we made a commitment to empower 100,000 women in our global supply chain community who make our beautiful products.

To achieve our goal, we entered into a partnership with BSR’s HERproject. HERproject is a collaborative initiative that strives to empower low-income women working in global supply chains. Through HERproject, we provided training on health and/or financial literacy to women working for our suppliers.

We are now celebrating the 100,000 women that have been empowered by our partnership with BSR’s HERproject. We have learned a lot from working with these inspiring women. For example, women can drive enormous positive change by sharing their knowledge and skills with others. When women do this, their colleagues, families, and communities all become better equipped to manage their health and/or finances, creating a ripple effect of positive change. We learned from these women that small individual actions can change lives, from the peer educator who helps a pregnant woman with her questions about nutrition to the colleague who helps her husband understand the benefits of monthly savings. Each time these women share information they have acquired from HERproject, it helps empower others to make more knowledgeable choices for their future.

We have found that empowering women in our supply chain has had positive impacts on business. Our suppliers have reported reduced turnover and absenteeism as a result of HERproject training. The trainings also led to strengthened relationships between workers in the factory and supplier management. Implementing HERproject has helped women to feel valued in the workplace, by giving them the opportunity to be heard. This has, in turn, increased the confidence of these women.

  

GLOBAL IMPACT

TO DATE

  • # OF WOMEN REACHED
    104,000
  • # OF COUNTRIES COVERED BY THE PROGRAMS


    6
  • # OF FACTORIES REACHED



    58
  • # OF PEER EDUCATORS



    2,800
  • % OF APPAREL SOURCED THROUGH PARTNERS TRAINED IN HERPROJECT CURRICULUM
    76%

 

PROGRAM IMPACTS

At the launch of HERproject in each factory, BSR asked our supply chain workers questions related to health and financial literacy. BSR then asked these workers the same questions after the training concluded. Based on these results, which are highlighted below, we are proud to see that the trainings had a significant impact on the knowledge and behavior of our supply chain workers.

Health Trainings

Health trainings are adapted to the context of each factory setting, taking into account the most prominent needs of workers. The aggregate impact of the programs – across all our key supplier countries – shows a remarkable increase in health knowledge and, as a consequence, health behavior changes due to this new information. This is demonstrated by the examples provided below, covering four key areas of women’s health: breast cancer, HIV awareness, menstrual hygiene and nutrition.

Breast Cancer
38%
POINTS
Increase in women that have performed a self-examination to recognize symptoms of breast cancer
Breast Cancer
38%
POINTS
Increase in women that have performed a self-examination to recognize symptoms of breast cancer
 
HIV Awareness
25%
POINTS
Increase in women being aware that HIV can be prevented
HIV Awareness
25%
POINTS
Increase in women being aware that HIV can be prevented
 
Menstrual Hygiene
26%
POINTS
Increase in women using sanitary napkins (rather than pieces of factory cloth)
Menstrual Hygiene
26%
POINTS
Increase in women using sanitary napkins (rather than pieces of factory cloth)
 
Nutrition
23%
POINTS
Increase in women eating breakfast daily, signaling stronger nutrition
Nutrition
23%
POINTS
Increase in women eating breakfast daily, signaling stronger nutrition

Financial Literacy Trainings

The aggregate impact of financial literacy programs across India show a substantial uptake of program learnings. This is demonstrated by the examples provided below, covering key areas of financial literacy: ability to plan for the future, savings and tracking expenses.

Meeting Future Financial Needs
50%
POINTS
Increase in respondents that feel they will be able to meet their family’s future expenses in the next two years
Meeting Future Financial Needs
50%
POINTS
Increase in respondents that feel they will be able to meet their family’s future expenses in the next two years
 
Savings
22%
POINTS
Increase in respondents that save regularly
Savings
22%
POINTS
Increase in respondents that save regularly
 
Tracking Expenses
32%
POINTS
Increase in respondents that track their expenses
Tracking Expenses
32%
POINTS
Increase in respondents that track their expenses
 

IMPACT BY COUNTRY

Click on the countries below
to learn more from BSR on the common challenges faced by women living and working in our supply chain countries, and the impact that HERproject has had on strengthening women’s ability to handle these challenges.

BANGLADESH

Women represent around 80% of the garment industry in Bangladesh. Before HERproject, a number of women reported being absent during menstruation, often because they had insufficient knowledge of or access to sanitary napkins, and lacked knowledge on how to manage menstrual pain. Women working in factories have a tendency to see sanitary napkins as reserved for wealthier women, and would rather send the money home or spend money on other family members. Some were afraid of buying sanitary napkins from men working in pharmacies. Women would therefore use scraps of cloth from the factory instead, leading to infections and illness.

IMPACT OF HERHEALTH

Through the HERhealth training, common cultural myths and misconceptions related to menstrual hygiene were addressed. One of the factories connected with service providers to help make sanitary napkins both affordable and immediately available to women working in the factories. As they did not need to leave the factory to buy sanitary napkins, women were much more likely to use sanitary napkins instead of scraps of cloth.



CHINA

In China, women surveyed prior to HERproject displayed a good knowledge of general health issues but were not always aware of how to eat healthily and meet their nutritional needs. In particular, before the training, a significant number of women reported that they were not eating meat, fruit and vegetables at least once a week. An imbalanced diet can lead to low energy levels and an increased susceptibility to disease. In addition, a lack of knowledge about nutrition may be passed on to children, leading to problems with infant growth and development.

IMPACT OF HERHEALTH

HERhealth trainings provide concrete information on nutrition, explaining which food groups women workers should try to include at each meal, and how to create a “balanced plate”. Anemia is common among women in parts of China. Iron and folic acid helps prevent anemia. The HERhealth training highlights foods that are rich in iron and folic acid, to help prevent anemia.



INDIA

In India, many women factory workers struggle with health-related issues due to a lack of access to relevant health knowledge and health facilities. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer related deaths. Younger women are affected at higher rates than in developed countries. A lack of organized awareness programs, preventive measures, breast cancer screening programs for early detection, scarcity of diagnostic aids, and general indifference toward the health of females are leading to increased cases of breast cancer.

In India, women disproportionately lack access and control over financial resources and have limited awareness of the various financial products and services available to them. While women are interested in financial education, sources of information are limited. This leads to women not being able to plan for the future, save for emergencies, or properly keep track of their expenses. Women have very little influence in financial-decision making at the household, and often grant control of their salary to a male family member.

IMPACT OF HERHEALTH

In India, awareness of how to identify symptoms of breast cancer and when to seek professional medical help is low. Early detection and availability of treatment facilities are vital for reducing the mortality rate of breast cancer. As part of the HERhealth training on reproductive cancers, women workers are trained on how to identify signs of breast cancer and are informed of available health services in their area. In particular, they are taught how to perform self-examinations to check for possible signs of breast cancer.



IMPACT OF HERFINANCE

Through the HERfinance program, trainers focused on building the financial capability of low-income employees by delivering financial education programs and connecting factory employees to appropriate financial services.



INDONESIA

In Indonesia, baseline data showed that women had a relatively good understanding of health topics, with high percentages of women demonstrating good knowledge of sexual and reproductive health and nutrition. However, Indonesia suffers from a low understanding of HIV, which also has a high social stigma attached to it. Maintaining quality health knowledge among women plays a vital role in preventing the spread of disease in Indonesian society.

IMPACT OF HERHEALTH

Through HERproject trainings, women were able to reinforce and maintain their knowledge of health topics. After the HERproject training, women workers’ knowledge about health increased significantly – especially knowledge about family planning, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, personal hygiene, and non-communicable diseases.



PHILIPPINES

In the Philippines, there is an opportunity to increase access to reproductive health information and services. Our trainings will provide opportunities for women to learn about reproductive health and family planning.

VIETNAM

Before HERhealth implementation in factories in Vietnam, women workers reported minimal knowledge on reproductive health, HIV/sexually transmitted infections, and family planning methods. Following the HERhealth training, all surveyed workers indicated that they had improved their menstrual hygiene practices.

IMPACT OF HERHEALTH

Misconceptions around the causes of menstrual pain and menstrual irregularities are a challenge in Vietnam. Such misconceptions can contribute to absence during menstruation. Through HERhealth trainings, women received information on menstruation and were able to ask questions, helping to dispel common myths that could cause poor hygiene practices.





HOW WE REACHED
100,000 WOMEN

Empowering 100,000 women in our supply chain required developing a strategic partnership between our company, our suppliers and non-profit partners.

To reach 100,000 women in our supply chain, we partnered with BSR’s HERproject to implement health and/or financial literacy training, collaborated with artisan communities, and signed the Women Empowerment Principles. Please read on below for more information about each of these initiatives.

REAL WOMEN
& THEIR STORIES

Hear from some of the women who have already been positively impacted from the programs.

Saraswati Devi

Seamstress
India


Saraswati Devi lives alone in the Indian Himalayas, a common occurrence for women living in the remote village. Her husband left for better work opportunities at a neighboring village, and her son lives with him to attend school. The 34-year-old only sees her family once every two months.

Her days used to be long, hard and lonely, waking up before sunrise to forage for firewood in the forest. She made very little money and worried often about her well being.

Now she makes money by sewing, an opportunity made possible by the ANN Inc. and Village Ways Charitable Trust. In addition to the financial benefits, sewing has also brought her closer to the other women in the village, and has lessened her loneliness, talking to her colleagues while working and sitting in the sun.

This partnership has also brought in master health educators from Delhi to teach Saraswati and her friends about good health, hygiene and nutrition. Saraswati often worked on an empty stomach, but now she understands the importance of investing in her own health and eats a low cost, but balanced breakfast before starting her chores. She also learned to keep typhoid and jaundice at bay by using water sanitation tablets.

Thanks to ANN Inc. and Village Ways Charitable Trust, Saraswati has been able to grow her skills, and her income. Most importantly, she worries less about her daily life and dreams more about her future.

Munni Devi

Seamstress
India


Sirmati Munni Devi lives in a village nestled in the Indian Himalayas with her two children. The 33-year-old used to endure long hard days of farming and trekking to the forest to collect firewood, while also juggling childcare and household chores. With all of her responsibilities, she had no time to take care of herself and, besides, the closest clinic was miles away.

However, thanks to a partnership between ANN Inc. and Village Ways Charitable Trust, her life has dramatically improved. By learning to sew, Munni now makes products for LOFT and Ann Taylor. It allows her to make more money in less time, which frees her to tend to her and her children’s needs.

In addition to helping out financially, sewing has created and deepened friendships with the other women in the village. At the newly constructed community center, Munni shares her daily ups-and-downs with her peers, as well as listening and supporting her fellow colleagues. Best of all, the additional income has made it possible for her children to attend school.

The partnership between ANN Inc. and Village Ways Charitable Trust has also brought health and hygiene education programs to Munni’s village. These classes have taught Munni how to cook low-cost nutritious meals for herself and her family. She also takes fewer sick days from work, with the knowledge she has learned, like how to decontaminate water by bringing it to a boil.

Now, as a peer health educator, Munni is excited to share her findings with her friends and neighbors. There has already been a noticeable reduction in typhoid and jaundice at her village—two diseases that used to be commonplace.

Munni often wonders about the women who buy the products she makes. If they ever met, she would like to thank them repeatedly for giving her a new lease at life.

Tham

Quality Assurance
Binh Duong, Vietnam


I have 6 years experience in the garment industry. I come from a family of 10 people, and my father lives with my younger sister in my hometown of Kien Giang Province and I am a sponsor for them. The HERproject was the first time I joined a health care training program. It improved my knowledge about nutrition and relaxing. Before I didn’t care much about these matters, but after this program, I have learned that these are very important. I enjoy sharing what I learned in training with my colleagues and my friends.

Before participating in the program, most of us haven’t taken much care of our health. But after the program we know how to treasure ourselves and better take care of our family members.

Anju Devi

Seamstress
India


When Anju Devi was 15 years old, she was married into a family with fewer means than her own. Her dreams of pursuing an education and becoming a teacher were quickly dashed as she took on the needs of her in-laws, while also providing for her three children. Eventually, Devi and her husband left their home state of Bihar for better work opportunities in Delhi.

Anju, now 30, has been working at Richa Global for the past ten years. Her factory income has allowed her to contribute to her family’s financial burdens as an equal partner and has also enabled her to send her children to school, so they can have a better future. But perhaps equally important to her paycheck is her self-confidence, which has blossomed, loving the fact that her hard work is appreciated in stores around the world.

In 2015, Ann Inc. partnered with Richa to invest in their factory workers’ health and wellness. Anju’s positive attitude quickly made her one of the factory’s favorite peer health educators, helping teach 1,500 workers about topics ranging from nutrition to water sanitation, disease prevention and family planning. Fellow workers, her supervisor and even the General Manager have appreciated her efforts. She now feels valued and hopes to work and grow at Richa forever.

Once underweight, Anju’s own health has greatly improved. Often skipping breakfast to rush to work or having to call in sick, she now understands the importance of eating breakfast to remain alert during work and purifying water to prevent illness. In addition, Anju and other women at the factory used to use discarded clothing scraps during their menstrual cycles, resulting in infections and the need to call in sick. Now, they used sanitary napkins and eat an iron-rich diet to combat anemia.

Anju has been excited to share her health knowledge with her friends and neighbors. She used to be ashamed of her lack of education and would worry that it would hold her children back at school. Now, she stands proudly in front of 500 children, parents and faculty to educate them on their health and was recently asked by her children’s school to teach a health class on Sundays. Her dreams of becoming a teacher have come true after all.

Wan Zhang

Quality Management
Panyu, China


I have 10 years of working experience in the garment industry. I live in Panyu with my son who is in high-school. I love Chinese New Year because it is a long holiday and I can spend time with family. Joining the HERproject recently helped to enrich my health knowledge, and especially helped me to clear a lot of uncertainty. I have learned that regular check-ups and treatment at early stage are very important.

Fen Yan

Sewer
Panyu, China


I have been working as a sewer for 3 years now. While, my hometown is Heyuan, Guangdong, I now live in Panyu with my husband and two lovely sons. I was inspired by the knowledge that other lady workers received through the HERproject training, so I decided that I wanted to become a Peer Educator too. From the training, I learned about gynecological as well as psychological health, so whenever I am stressed, I know how to solve these issues. Through the HERproject, I feel that I am more active, happy and motivated.

Before I became a peer educator, all I ever did was come to work and take care of my family, nothing else. My life became so fulfilled after I became a Peer Educator.

Gui fang

Quality Management
Panyu, China


I have more than 11 years of working experience in the garment industry. I live in Panyu with my husband and my 17-year old son, who is in high-school. After the HERproject women’s health training last year, I learned the symptoms of some gynecological sicknesses, how to prevent them and what kind of symptoms to look for. I also learned about the importance of women’s health, and how being healthy allows us to work and take care of our families. I can now answer my fellow workers’ questions and can explain to them how to properly care for themselves. I like that I am able to share my knowledge with my friends and colleagues.

I am empowered by being a Peer Educator of the HERproject, which helped me to understand more about other women and myself.

Deepa

Seamtress
Uttrakhand, India


Deepa is a seamstress, who completed high school and recently finished college. She has been stitching scarves for Village Ways Charitable Trust for three years. Stitching is a source of extra income for her, and she is the only one in her family who works as an artisan. She wants to continue to learn new techniques and one day become a skilled seamstress. Deepa finds the training to be very valuable to her even beyond the monetary benefit, and uses the money she earns to help her mom and dad.

Chinh

Utility Officer
Hai Duong, Vietnam


Chinh has worked in Hai Duong for 3 years and has 6 years of experience in the garment industry. Chinh has a husband and a 5 year old son, and she is pregnant with their second child. Chinh enjoys playing with her son and cooking her favorite dishes for her family and friends. The introduction of the HERproject to her factory has given Chinh greater access to information about her pregnancy, what to expect caring for a newborn, and resources concerning her post-childbirth health. Chinh is excited to welcome a healthy baby in a few months. Chinh considers herself to be a very open person who enjoys helping others, and she hopes to have the opportunity to support and empower other women through the HERproject.

Quynh

Sewing Leader
Binh Duong, Vietnam


I have 6 years of garment industry experience. I live in Binh Duong with my husband who also works at the same factory. I think that women’s health education is very important since we need to take care of ourselves and our families. I feel honored to be one of 40 Peer Educators in my factory in the HERproject program, which provides training on women’s health care and reproductive health before and after childbirth. I like to share the knowledge I gained through training with my family and friends, as well as female workers in the company.

It’s my honor to be a Peer Educator and to share the knowledge with my family and friends.

Yong Hong

Sewing line leader
Panyu, China


I have almost 11 years of working experience in the garment industry. I have been living in Panyu for 13 years now, and my husband and I both work at the same factory. We have two daughters and they are studying at the junior school near the factory. After the HERproject training I am aware of my own health including how to do self-examinations, prevent common gynecological sicknesses, and how to relieve stress from work. With my new health knowledge, I will try to influence my family and friends to change their daily habits and to develop a healthier lifestyle. It’s great that we can all work happily together, that’s why I love being a Peer Educator.

Of course health is very important to everyone, it is even more important to women because we have the same workload as men, and after work, have to take care of their families and educate the children.

Pooja

Weaver
Uttrakhand, India


Pooja is a weaver and has been with Village Ways Charitable Trust for over a year. She is married with two children, a boy and a girl. Her husband works away from home, and weaving enables her to earn a second income which helps to create a better life for her family.

“I like working with Village Ways Charitable Trust. I realized if I wanted to better my children’s lives I needed to stand on my own feet and earn a living. I enjoy weaving, it is a lovely skill. I feel that if I continue to get this work I will be able to support my family. I want to educate my children so they can have a better life. I enjoy working with Village Ways Charitable Trust. They give us pride of work and income. We feel respected. Weaving these beautiful scarves gives us so much hope, a hope of a better life for our children.”
 

WHAT’S NEXT

We are excited to celebrate the contribution we have made to empowering women in our global supply chain, and to recognize the significant impacts that HERproject programs have had on women working for our suppliers. Through increased knowledge around health and financial literacy, we have seen women change their behavior for healthier and more financially sound choices – whether it be through recognizing the symptoms of cancer, having a healthier diet, maintaining proper menstrual hygiene practices, or increasing their savings each month.

Our efforts have also demonstrated to us the great needs and challenges that women workers across the garment industry face every day. We started our collaboration with BSR’s HERproject through in-person factory trainings. Then, we created the HERnetwork and HERtoolkit, which expanded our reach even further in countries where the program did not previously exist. We aim to build on the success and learnings we have had while broadening our reach and bringing this program to scale even further. We remain committed to empowering women across our supply chain and beyond.

Stay tuned for more information on how we will continue to support, empower and strengthen women in our supply chain!

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