Many fabrics companies are currently striving to impact the environment as little as possible. But that is just part of this new holistic approach. They are also acting fairly to support their workers’ social causes and overall well-being, especially addressing their projects in favor of women’s empowerment. Here, we introduce two initiatives from Pakistan.

According to Artistic Milliners, denim mill and manufacturer based in Karachi, in its country more than 60% of women are illiterate. Due to various socio-economic and cultural factors, they either don’t have access to education or are not allowed to attend schools. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the situation has become even worse as they have even less access to tech literacy, find themselves more vulnerable at work and are often left behind.

To support female workers to build their adaptive capacity, help them face the present crisis and bridge the gender gap that has deepened further during the pandemic, Artistic Milliners and Danish Bestseller Group have started the new project BSR’s HERessentials pilot born as a partnership with the UK FCDO’s “Work and Opportunities for Women” (WOW) program.

“Our women workers on the factory floors are the most hardworking, they deserve a safe work environment as well as opportunities to progress,” said Murtaza Ahmed, managing director at Artistic Milliners. “We have successfully launched many women’s economic empowerment programs at Artistic Milliners. However, HERessentials is one of its kind in terms of its adaptability to changing times. We are excited to collaborate with our brand partner Bestseller to bring this program to Pakistan. It is heartening that they support our passion to help women excel in their careers. With the right implementation, HERessentials has the potential to change lives of many marginalized women in Pakistan.”

A few years ago, Artistic Milliners had rolled out the HERhealth program in its factory. Building on to this experience, HERessentials will be implemented at Artistic Milliners’ factories and will be targeted at managers and factory workers. After a first pilot phase, the program will cover all female factory workers of Artistic Milliners. In a second phase, the program will become available for other manufacturing facilities, and eventually it will be an online, free to access training module for all marginalized women workers.

Artistic Milliners and Bestseller Group have started the BSR’s HERessentials female empowerment project
Photo: Artistic Milliners
Artistic Milliners and Bestseller Group have started the BSR’s HERessentials female empowerment project
“With a growing value chain transparency, we feel the need to contribute directly to the success of female factory workers,” said Andrei Vasilev, social impact manager, Bestseller. “We are inspired by Artistic Milliners’ commitment toward women’s economic empowerment. I am confident that our collaboration to equip women workers with the most relevant tools will directly contribute to their progressive role and success at work as well as the society. Our long-term vision is to make HERessentials training available to all vulnerable groups of women workers in Pakistan.”

Another example is Soorty, a Pakistani vertically integrated denim company, that is committed with various touchpoints including sustainability and equal work opportunities for different workers’ categories, among others.

As part of its projects, Soorty has started SEWS, or Soorty Enhancing Women Service, an initiative launched in 2018 and now further strengthened with the aim to reinforce women’s empowerment, increase the participation rate and the employability of women in the denim industry.

The SEWS program is conducted in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Sustainability Agents, a Berlin-based consulting consortium specialized in gender issues, the Karachi Government Polytechnic Institute for Women and Thespianz Theater Group, and it operates to improve women’s social, political, economic and health status, policy-making strength as well as to sensitize men towards the social, fiscal and family benefits of female employment and make them a partner in women’s empowerment.

As part of the project, they organized street-theater plays performed in the Korangi area of Karachi, one of the largest industrial districts in Pakistan.

SEWS has partnered with The Indus Hospital and the Jinna Post-Graduate Medical Center to spread the value that preserving health is important and helps to save lives. They held campus health seminars focused on specific topics to help spread knowledge about medical education.

The aim of the SEWS project is to help increase women’s opportunities for employment thereby also increasing their skills, earnings, mobility and expansion in their public sphere, their representation in family decision-making and general improvement in local social indicators and communal roles.