Empowering Women Series – Going Beyond

All of us do not get equal opportunities, but do those of us that have been blessed with “more”, move out of our comfort zone to spread the good fortune.This is the story of a company that changed their policies to truly make a difference. A Sri Lankan apparel manufacturing company with over 90% women employees initiated a “Go Beyond Program”. The aim was to create an atmosphere where women could learn skills like financial management, computer literacy and hence not only empower but recognize the contribution of women in the workplace and beyond.

apparel_workersA Sri Lankan based company specializing in the production of intimate apparel and sportswear goods initiated the “Go Beyond Program” in 2003. The program, targeted at women, provides career development, life skills education and recognition for female garment workers. Prior to the initiative, the company plants provided meals, banking services, skills building classes and transportation to their garment workers, however, the extent and funding of each program was at each plant manager’s discretion.

With the “Go Beyond Program”, a company- wide framework was established to standardize and evaluate employee programs at each individual plant based on internally identified best practices. The program identified a four-point framework of empowerment and development based on career advancement, work-life balance, rewarding excellence and community activation. Specific classes included: awareness on domestic violence, stress management, balancing multiple roles of a woman, dressmaking, financial management and computer literacy.

images (2)During the initial roll-out of the program and based on an impact measurement framework that was developed in July 2004, the company plants implemented 290 programs in the four thematic areas and reached the average worker 3.7 times in the first year. Since its rollout, the program has been extended to India and Vietnam.

As 90% of its employees are women the company became aware of the need to be supportive of women who commit to developing themselves and reward those who achieved excellence. The ‘Women Go Beyond’ programme seeks empower women at plants and communities by recognizing their contributions to society and rewarding excellence in academics, sports, commerce and arts thus eliminating the perceived image that all apparel is manufactured in sweat shop conditions worldwide with rampant child labor & non compliance with human rights & acceptable labour conditions.

images (1)The program concentrated on promoting knowledge, awareness, leadership skills, attitudinal changes, the ability to balance work and personal life etc and encompassed the following main areas; Women Go Beyond Framework Training for career development for employees – e. g. Training in English language Training in Information Technology Training in Financial Management – personal & professional Soft skills – Presentation, Time management, Leadership Skills Supporting work-life balance initiatives– e. g Assisting in the creation of crèche facilities Encouraging team sports at MAS Beauty culture training/dress sense/grooming & patchwork Special programs for pregnant employees. Conducting programs on Health & Hygiene – Reproductive health, 5S, HIV & STD Awareness, Nutrition, Domestic Violence Rewarding excellence of women at the plants – e.g. Awards based on performance at plant/regional/national/ international level in areas of arts. Each plant chooses & rewards women who reflect the Go Beyond definition of an “Empowered Woman” annually – thereby creating role models for others to emulate from.