Three years of impact: what’s changing in the garment industry?

by 11th Nov 2019
CARE's Made by Women strategy is working towards positive change for women like Lipiya, a Senior Sewing Operator at a garment factory in Bangladesh CARE's Made by Women strategy is working towards positive change for women like Lipiya, a Senior Sewing Operator at a garment factory in Bangladesh

We want the women employed in the supply chains of the companies which make your clothes to have access to decent jobs free from violence and harassment and to be able to voice their rights at work. 

That's why we've been working with the garment sector in Asia for more than 20 years. But since 2016 we think we’ve made even greater impact by sharpening our engagement and focusing on catalyzing industry change. Our Made by Women strategy is helping us achieve this - and our latest Impact Report shows that it works.

Women are taking action

Our goal is not to simply reach more women with our programmes but to contribute to tangible changes which will lead to positive benefits in women’s lives.

For example, our work with community solidarity groups in Bangladesh helped women develop leadership skills which enabled them to demand access to legal rights and entitlements. Women were able to support others to claim maternity pay, apply for sick leave and insist management deal with abusive supervisors. Often the changes they sought led to benefits for many workers, such as convincing the factory to pay minimum wage. Across Asia, more than 27,500 women workers have now joined workers groups and organizations and 58,000 have accessed rights they were previously denied.

Industry leaders are engaging more to support gender equality

Change within the industry cannot happen without the engagement of the private sector. We’ve seen growing commitment from global brands, with 11 partnering with CARE to promote gender equality within their supply chains; brands like the Cotton On Group, who are working with us to promote career progression for women in their supplier factories, and Target, which is supporting formation of community solidarity groups in three countries. Multiple companies have engaged us in conversations about gender equality and women’s empowerment in the past year as businesses increasingly recognize the value of addressing gender disparities and discrimination in the workplace.

This interest has led to more opportunities for collaboration with diverse partners to find practical solutions to common industry challenges. The recent Business of Women at Work event in Cambodia – co-organized with Better Factories Cambodia with the support of the Australian Government – brought together more than 150 people from companies, investment firms, NGOs and industry associations to identify how best to address workplace sexual harassment. Companies have been consulting on an industry set of Standard Operating Procedures to support enterprises across the supply chain to better address this.

National policies are addressing gender issues

The benefit of combining a regional focus with CARE’s long-standing on-the-ground presence means we can effectively work with national governments to influence the laws and regulations affecting women’s day-to-day lives. For example, in Myanmar CARE brought together a group of organisations to influence how women’s needs are represented in the Occupational Health & Safety Law. In Vietnam, revisions to the Labor Code offered an opportunity to highlight the importance of addressing sexual harassment at work.

This national-level engagement also contributed to global change with the adoption of the ILO’s Violence and Harassment Convention in June 2019, a big win for workers in the garment industry and around the globe. Our goal in the coming year is to support national governments to ratify this Convention and guarantee their workers will be protected from violence and harassment by law.

Read the Made by Women Impact Report 2019

Read a two-page summary of the report

Made by Women is CARE’s Impact Growth Strategy focused on economically empowering women working in the garment industry through dignified work. To learn more about the strategy visit care.org/madebywomen.

Jenny Conrad

I coordinate communications for CARE's Made by Women strategy, which promotes dignified work for women in the garment industry. I joined CARE in 2013 as Communications Advisor for the Cambodia office. During my time with CARE I have supported CARE Cambodia’s private sector engagement with a focus on the garment industry and led strategic communications for CARE Australia's International Programmes team.

Having started my career in marketing, prior to joining CARE I was leading communications for a global philanthropy publication. I hold a BA in English from the University of Bristol.

Email: jenny.conrad@careint.org

Twitter: @jennyeconrad