Three women working in a garment factory smiling at camera

Why the Fashion Industry’s Four Largest Women’s Empowerment Programmes Came Together to Form RISE 

By Christine Svarer, Executive Director, RISE 

BSR’s HERproject, Gap Inc. P.A.C.E, CARE, and Better Work, have come together to launch RISE (Reimagining Industry to Support Equality) on International Women’s Day. The organization aims to empower women workers in the garment, footwear, and home furnishings supply chains by building on the founding partners’ proven approaches and expertise.

This International Women’s Day we are celebrating the launch of RISE: Reimagining Industry to Support Equality. It’s a celebration of collaboration for the greater good, with the four largest women’s empowerment programmes in the garment industry – BSR’s HERproject, Gap Inc. P.A.C.E, CARE and Better Work – coming together to build on their proven approaches and scale impact.

We know that increased support is needed for women workers in global garment supply chains. It is estimated 75% of the 60 million garment workers are women1 who may experience gender inequality, and instances of harassment or violence at work, among other systemic barriers to empowerment and gender equity. The COVID-19 pandemic and an increasingly difficult financial environment adds to mounting pressure on women workers2.

To help industry support women workers, greater collaboration is needed. Having had a relatively similar journey, since each of the four founding partners started working on women’s empowerment around 2007, we have been collaborating on specific initiatives in an ad hoc fashion. It’s been a friendly coexistence. However, in recent years, we’ve noticed bumping into each other in the same workplaces, sometime delivering very similar activities. This means potential for duplication and confusion across industry, potentially leading to fatigue in the same way we’ve seen with audits and inefficient deployment of resources halting our ability to support a greater number of workers.

For a very long time we have been saying to business that advancing gender equality is best done in a collaborative manner. No one entity can tackle this alone. With that, it was quickly clear that coming together as one single entity was the only way to accelerate progress on gender equality in supply chains, and RISE was born.

We are immensely proud that the four founding partners have supported more than five million workers in over 20 countries in partnership with 70 global companies. However, there is still a long way to go if we want to see women workers fulfil their economic potential, supported by industry and other key stakeholders.

RISE will support global brands to empower women workers in their garment, footwear and home furnishings supply chains and have a wider impact on promoting gender equality in the industry as a whole. RISE will pursue its mission through three interconnected strategies: (1) strengthening knowledge and skills for factory workers and managers; (2) transforming business practices to promote and reward gender equality, and (3) influencing public policy and other key actors.

RISE will build on the proven approaches and expertise of the four founding partners, delivered through a growing network of local partners in Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Egypt and Pakistan. A unified approach will make it easier and more efficient for industry and wider stakeholders to drive accelerated and lasting impact on gender equality. It will also improve efficiency through the coordination of activities, a shared data system, and eliminating duplication.

RISE’s capacity building workplace programmes aim to increase women workers’ dignity and equality in the workplace, by changing both behaviours and systems. The programmes expand women workers’ choices and their ability and confidence to pursue their rights and opportunities.

In fact, RISE goes beyond workplace programmes to bring positive change to the whole industry and influence policy improvements. It includes workers’ voices and representation at every level from governance to project implementation, ensuring that the work responds to women workers’ needs and priorities. RISE has broad stakeholder involvement at its governance: brands, suppliers, labour organisations and unions, and women’s movements.

It’s time to step up support for women workers in global garment supply chains. Brands, buyers and suppliers can join RISE straight away to take serious action towards gender equality.

1 International Labour Organization

2 International Labour Organization 

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