ReadyTogether

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ReadyTogether: Creating Sustainable Career Paths for Women in RMG

Dhaka, BangladeshBangladesh
Year Founded:
2014
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Idea
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

No garment factory worker is empowered or safe with only men in charge. Untapped potential + low opportunity for educated women = high cost on too many levels. Let's train female students in QC, train them to train female workers, and give them a powerful role. Better Quality, Greater Equality.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

WHAT IF the percent of women in technical and managerial positions in Bangladesh RMG increased from less than 3% to 30% by 2021?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

1. gender inequality in RMG (80% female labor with no authority, few promotions for female sewing operators, few educated women in the sector) 2. the "talent gap" between local education and RMG employment needs (low perception among youth, lack of correct skills among local job seekers, missed opportunities for industrial learning) 3. inexperience with and lack of knowledge of social sustainability among current RMG managers

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Recruit female design students to become QC interns by explaining the larger purpose and role they can fill, and the practical benefit to their career aspirations. Partner MenEngage works in the factory with male employees to assure their support and inclusion. Industry professionals deliver 8 modules of QC training to interns on Saturdays for 2 months. Interns conduct QC assignments during the week. They work full time in QC for a month, with Saturday mentoring on leadership/communication, plus digital photography workshops with female workers (partner Lensational delivers) to embed empathy between the groups of women. Month 4, interns train female sewing operators in QC. Interns become final QC inspector. Workers advance to QC line.

Awards

None yet
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In the recruitment phase, female design students learn how they can make a difference for women, and for their country, and about gender equality+sustainability. As interns they build their confidence, communication skills, and add key industrial knowledge, with emotional support from women leaders. They learn to empathize with women workers. Male employees are included in GE learning through sessions with MenEngage. This also provides novel research approach to this topic. Male managers are exposed to the benefit of a GE initiative. Female sewing operators get a new opportunity to learn new skills from female students and begin a career path. Media campaigns tell the story to consumers; our research provides new insights on improving GE.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We've yet to launch so I am at present educating students about leadership, social impact of RMG sustainability, women's empowerment, etc. and encouraging them to take these matters to heart. I also utilize social media to spread these messages to Bangladeshi men and women. Hundreds of students have sought my advice and input and claim so much new hope from it. Projected Impact of first pilot in one factory: 10 interns and 50 workers certified in QC, 10 male managers exposed to GE initiative, 30 male workers taught GE and women's empowerment; 'made in Bangladesh' image improved and factory highlighted by consumer awareness campaign, countless consumers aware of gender gap in RMG and solutions. Improved QA efficiency and accuracy, less corruption in final inspections. Cost savings by giving foreign-held jobs to certified local women. New ambition and hope among female workers.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Proof of concept in one factory will lead to more factory participation. Female students and female workers will share positive stories to each other and online. Mass media campaign to raise support/awareness. More universities will want to participate, including int'l fashion programs. Training offerings can include sustainable design, color mgmt, compliance and more. Current managers who participate will be more prepared for final phase of advanced sustainability mgmt training/certification. Published research will help with increased funding to replicate in other producer regions.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Factories pay for internships/training at low cost, brands agree to drop 3rd party inspections. Operating costs of RT are covered by the sale of courses in high value tech skills that design grads, local RMG pros need and that garment tech firms, factories, and brands will benefit from. Developing these with key partnerships. CSR funds, grants, etc can supplement.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

NARI, CARE, ChaNGE, etc are addressing worker wellbeing and women's empowerment. ReadyTogether is different because we're linking empowerment/wellbeing efforts for workers to the need to improve local design education, technical skills, and overall Quality in RMG, while creating opportunities for the female students who could become future leaders in this sector. No project that I know of is directly paving career paths for women in RMG and including men in the process. No source for specific, sustainable garment factory mgmt training currently exists in Bangladesh.
Team

Founding Story

In 2012 I won full tuition to research sustainability in global apparel, but my advisor and I were at odds: she thought environment mattered more, I saw social responsibility as a grave concern. Rana Plaza settled it. I learned that male management inadequacies were central to the problems, and that no mgmt standard existed. So my thesis proposed a global mgmt training standard. I came to Bd and started teaching at BGMEA U. Saw that improving local education had to be part of the solution. BGMEA members encouraged me to focus on promoting women. So I surveyed industry about the easiest area to train both workers and students that would give them the most power. Quality was the answer.

Team

Everyone is currently part-time because we haven't launched yet and don't have funding for salaries. Founder, Project Manager: Anna Troupe. Founding assistant, translator: Waliur Rahman who has managed for BRAC and Grameen. Industry consultants/advisors such as Nazma Akter (AWAJ Foundation), Alam Tareque (Elegant Group), Warisul Abid (SQ Group), Reji Pollose (Viyellatex). Key university contacts: Rafique Siddiqui, Director of Planning and Development for SMUCT, Golab Rabbani, Fashion Dept Head at NIFT. Director of Research: Imtiaz Saikh, Chairman of Gender Studies at Dhaka U and Director of MenEngage Bd. Female Support Providers: Lensational team, including CEO Bonnie Chu; Mentors - Tasaffy Hossain, consultant for private sector devl't, Miriam Knopfe, Berlin-based designer. Media and Marketing: myself and Nawshin Khair, Country Coordinator for Fashion Revolution Bangladesh and family founder of Bengal Institute. Project development advisor: Robin Chowdhury of Ashoka.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Manufacturing.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Advocate/Organizer, Consumer, Designer, Non-profit Staff, Researcher.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Consumers, Corporations, Designers, Factory Workers, Factory Owners, Policymakers, Researchers, Retailers - Mass-merchandise Chain, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Supplier - contractor, Supplier - subcontractor, Technologists, Women, Youth.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Access to Essential Services (i.e. Healthcare and Education), Conscious Consumerism, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Labor Rights (i.e. Collective Bargaining, etc.), Gender Equality, Physical Working Conditions, Other, [please specify].

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Advocacy, Capacity Building, Data, Training, Technology.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Unite More than Voice: Tap into Community Capital and Collective Resources, Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?

yes

If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Students who work with me learn about the importance of gender equality and how it relates to sustainability in RMG.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

Lensational embeds empathy, MenEngage teaches GE to male factory staff, SMUCT/NIFT, ChaNGE, JITA, Bengal Institute, Ashoka