Webinar on Gender Equality in the Supply Chain

Fair Wear Foundation recently held an inspirational session for its members and stakeholders on best practices and notable examples to advance gender equality in the supply chain.

Gender equality is a human right and good for business. Gender is not a niche topic. Hence, looking at the supply chain through a gender lens is essential.

‘3/4 of garment workers are women. It is vital to look at their needs and the risks that they face in the industry. We want to start a dialogue on gender with our members and stakeholders and share their initiatives to advance gender equality in production countries,’ says Gemma Giammattei, Gender Equality Programme Manager. 

Here are a few highlights from the session: 

We began with Mariusz Stochaj from member brand Continental Clothing giving a presentation on the initiatives they took at their factories in India. 

  • First, he emphasised the importance of breaking the glass ceiling by getting women involved in supervisor positions through training and skill building. 
  • Second, he highlighted how Continental Clothing dealt with ‘period poverty’ when they noticed regular monthly absences of women in the factories as they did not have access to personal hygiene products. They addressed this by partnering with the organisation Eco Femme from Auroville. Together they held workshops, educated women on the topic, and distributed free sanitary products. 

‘What is most inspiring is you can see what this type of initiative does to the entire workforce, including men, as it lifts the morale. Providing free sanitary products must be supported by the relevant health and social education,’ explains Schotaj.

Another Fair Wear member described how they support vulnerable groups in their supply chain by collecting data at one of their factories and focusing on gender as a spectrum which improves gender data collection. The brand realised that not all workers are affected in the same way in their supply chain and this led them to prioritise and understand the position of their most vulnerable workers better. The brand concluded that not seeing gender-specific challenges in your supply chain while also not collecting gender-disaggregated data means that you have a blind spot, not that there is nothing there.

Nahida Kona from Awaj Foundation and Sara Eva from Karmojibi Nari introduced us to the ‘Violence and Harassment Prevention Programme’ to reduce gender-based violence in factories. The programme’s main goal is to raise the awareness level of the workers, supervisors and factory managers by providing them with the tools and guidance needed to start an open dialogue about issues and opportunities in the workplace to improve working conditions in the factory. 

We finished the webinar with Lisa Carl from FEMNET, Jiska Gojowczyk from Südwind, Deepak Nikarthil from Cividep India and Mohammad Didit Saleh from TURC talking about their project Focusing on Gender & Health in The Garment and Footwear Industry in India and Indonesia.  

‘The garment industry in India and Indonesia is a highly gendered occupation, with over 80% of the workers being women. Women’s health is a crucial indicator for overall development. In June 2022, the ILO established that the occupational health and safety convention was a fundamental right at work,’ says Nikarthil.

During this session, we could see that brands can be game changers in the industry, but at the same time, we cannot expect that the burden remains only on the brands. Collaboration is the key to changing the industry: brands and international and local stakeholders shall join forces.

As Nahida Kona from Awaj Foundation points out: 

If we want the garment industry to sustain, then there is no other alternative than to develop women-friendly working conditions at the factories.