US: Wal-Mart launches Women in Factories programme


Wal-Mart will look to empower women working for its suppliers

Wal-mart  has today (5 March) announced the launch of its Women in Factories programme, a five-year initiative that will empower 60,00 women working in its supplier factories in India, Bangladesh, China and Central America.

The scheme will teach women critical life skills related to communication, hygiene, reproductive health, occupational health and safety, identifying personal strengths and gender sensitivity. Up to 8,000 women will also receive leadership training to develop the work and life skills necessary for personal and career development.

The programme will be rolled out to 150 factories in India, Bangladesh, China and Central America over the next five years, initially launching in Bangladesh and India in 2012. The programme was designed and implemented in collaboration with CARE in Bangladesh and SWASTI in India, and will be evaluated by Northwestern University in partnership with DAI and Mission Measurement.

Meredith Menhennett, senior manager of ethical sourcing at Wal-Mart, and in charge of the training programme, told just-style that Wal-Mart will fund the programme for two years, and that after the two years, it expects the programme to become self sustaining.

“During the two years of funding that the foundation give, the first round of training will be conducted by our NGO partners, and at the same time they will be teaching and mentoring the HR team to continue the programme,” says Menhennett.

“The second round of leadership will be conducted by the factory with the active support and teaching of the NGO partners. And they will continue to have the NGO and and Wal-Mart’s support.”

While the Wal-Mart is emphasising the social benefits it expects to see through the programme, it also expects that there will be business impacts as well. Menhennett highlighted how the nutrition, programme, for example, will help to reduce illness and worker absenteeism, which will have a positive impact on the companies they’re working for.

“Empowering women not only improves their lives but it is also good for customers and business across the industry,” says Michelle Gloeckler, senior vice president of Home for Walmart. “By educating and empowering women in factories and creating a stronger supply chain, suppliers realise greater efficiencies in their factories, which should result in higher quality products, lower prices and more reliable product availability for customers.”

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