The garment industry has the power to transform the lives of women. Women with no education or skills can enter the garment industry and with some training can quickly become part of the workforce, earning for themselves and their families and gaining financial independence. In Bangladesh for example over 4 million women are employed in the garment industry and as a result they score higher on many human development indicators than women in other parts of the sub-continent.
However in certain cultures – such as Pakistan – women face many barriers from entering the workplace. For many families, working is not seen as appropriate for women, especially married women. This is a cost to society which is losing out on the productivity of many of its citizens. And certainly it means women miss out gaining financial independence. Research across the globe has shown that when women earn they are much more likely to save and to spend on their children and family than when men earn. So denying women the chance to earn has many hidden costs.
Mantis World works closely with their partner factory in the Punjab region of Pakistan. They have recently started a training initiative to attract more women into the workplace. The goal is to have at least 15 women in the training centre enabling a continuous increase in the number of women in training.
Attracting women into the workplace can be difficult and the factory management often visit families in person to reassure them that their daughters will be safe and looked after if they are allowed to work. They also can illustrate how the whole family will benefit from the increased earnings. Once the women are trained, they join the other sewing operators on the line and act as role models for other women entering the workplace. They also provide reassurance for the men that women can work and there is no “dishonour” in it. We hope to create a virtuous circle, and already the number of female skilled operators has doubled from 25 to 50.
Mantis World have committed to paying the training allowance for every woman who enters the training institute covering part of the investment in training women who will then become self-sufficient earners in their own right. The company hopes this will become a self-sustaining venture and other businesses will adopt the model as best practice once they realise they have access to a much bigger pool of human resource.
“We do not believe in hand outs that create dependency. We try very hard to support self-sufficiency which enables people to improve their own standard of living. Our project with women in the workplace in Pakistan is designed to be self-sustainable and underlines our belief in the triple bottom line – People, Planet, Profits. We want to demonstrate that more women at work in Pakistan is not just better for women and society but also better for business.”
Prama Bhardwaj, Founder & CEO