Jun 22 2010
When it comes to empowering women, we have work to do. You. Me. Everyone.
According to some estimates, women represent 70% of the world’s poor. In the developing world, the percentage of land owned by women is less than 2%. More than half of the estimated 33 million people living with HIV worldwide are women.
And here’s a fact on the other side of equation. In 2006, The Economist estimated that over the previous decade, women’s work had contributed more to global growth than China. So you see not only the results, but … the potential!
That’s why I’m so strongly supportive of the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles, guide posts for actions that advance and empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.
I’m especially pleased that my boss, John Anderson, the president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., is one of the 38 lead signers of the CEO Statement of Support of the Women’s Empowerment Principles. The United Nations Development Fund for Women and the United Nations Global Compact have just announced this.
It’s especially relevant for an apparel company, where so many of those who make the products we sell are women – up to 75%, depending upon the country.
As is always the case, actions speak louder than words. So, besides signing a statement of support, what are we doing as a company?
Right now, for example, we’re partnering with Business for Social Responsibility on a big idea. The HERproject – for Health Enables Returns – seeks to educate apparel factory workers about reproductive health and access to health services.
We’ve found alarmingly low levels of knowledge about menstrual health, family planning, pregnancy and post-partum care, and HIV/AIDS.
Case in point: these factory workers miss a great deal of work due to their menstrual cycles. We’ve found in Pakistan and Egypt that menstrual hygiene is an “easy win” with clear business benefits.
Basic stuff. Important, too. And that’s why we – and other major brands – are working with local non-governmental agencies to support such services.
Not only is it the right thing to do, it makes good business sense.
For every dollar invested in building the capacity of factory health clinics and providing peer-to-peer health education and training, three dollars of return can be realized in the form of increased productivity on the factory floor.
Again, when it comes to empowering women, we have work to do and many problems to solve – at all levels, not just on the factory floor. But the HERproject and the UN’s Women’s Empowerment Principles are, in my opinion, part of the solution.
Posted By: Jill Nash, Senior Vice President, Levi Strauss & Co. Corporate Affairs
Tags: Levi Strauss & Co.
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