Inditex’s Sakhi Health and Gender Equity Project
Implementing worker-centric strategies through peer educator programs
There are more than 1.5 million workers in Inditex’s supply chain, and the overwhelming majority of them are women. As such, a key objective of the global apparel brand is to “promote gender equality and women’s empowerment” across the company’s own staff and throughout its supply chain.
In India, women comprise up to 80% of the workforce in the factories that Inditex sources from. Most of these women are from rural areas with limited economic and educational opportunities. Human rights risks are particularly severe when it comes to their health and well-being. For instance, factory facilities may not be equipped to accommodate the reproductive health needs of women workers; and instances of harassment, abuse and discrimination inside and within the vicinity of factories may run high.
“The textile industry is a mainstay of the economy in many of the countries where we operate and women occupy most of the jobs in all stages of production. For this reason, Inditex’s supply chain is mostly female. And it is our duty and mission to contribute to all these workers having the best working conditions and enjoying the same opportunities as a man.”
Inditex Annual Report 2016
Inditex recognized these widespread challenges in its Indian supply chain and thus launched the Sakhi Health and Gender Equity Project in 2016 with the dual objectives of addressing women’s health risks in the workplace and preventing harassment or abuse.
The project is carried out in partnership with St. John’s National Academy of Health Services (Bangalore) and the Swasti Health Catalyst. The pilot phase of the program has so far been initiated at six factories within Inditex’s supply chain in India, covering a total of 4,290 workers to date.
Key aspects of the initiative
Named after the Hindi word for “female friend,” the Sakhi project centers on a peer educator training program where senior women workers are trained to raise awareness at the factory level and educate their colleagues in the areas of health and gender equity.
“I know that these women [peer educators] will help another ten more, and that ten will help another ten more. So, I think this whole idea of creating awareness is cascading into something which is much bigger and not just restricted to this industry.”
Dr. Deepthi Shanbhag, St. John’s Medical College
The Sakhi Health component of the project is carried out with St. John’s National Academy of Health Services (Bangalore) in the following ways:
- Awareness raising and sensitization workshops with workers, supervisors and factory management in the areas of reproductive and maternal health, nutrition, hygiene, HIV/AIDS, ergonomics and access to local health care services.
“The majority of workers at the factory level in the garment industry in South India are women; and many of them are coming from rural areas with very little information about their health and how to access basic health services. This is a risk for a company like Inditex that is sourcing from factories situated in South India. They have recognized this and are trying to skill up both workers and management through the peer educator program, which is periodically assessed and adapted.”
Dr. Naveen Ramesh, St. Johns Medical College
According to Inditex:
- Two factories have initiated these programs so far, covering 740 workers.
- Going forward, the project aims to bring together factory-level peer educators at periodic conferences to discuss challenges, share good practices and explore collective solutions.
The Sakhi Gender Equity component of the project is carried out with the Swasti Health Catalyst in the following ways:
- Sensitization training of top management and production heads in 100% of Inditex’s suppliers in India in an effort to raise awareness of gender equality issues primarily among men in senior management at the manufacturing level.
“We want to make sure that management at the supplier level is accountable for the successful running of these programs. It has to be a supplier run and owned project for the solutions to be sustainable and we are thankfully seeing this happen as suppliers are more and more building, on their own, the activities of the Sakhi project into their production calendars going forward.”
Christian Chandran, Inditex
- A collaborative study with other brands working in India to identify and analyze worker needs. The study aims to advance worker well-being, better understand the challenges faced by migrant workers, and address issues related to gender-based violence, harassment and discrimination as a means of better informing factory-level programs.
- Development of an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment guide with Swasti Health Catalyst based on consultations with suppliers and anonymous surveys of workers, supervisors, and management.
“We aim to find and implement solutions together with companies. There’s a way to achieve business objectives without compromising on values and human rights, and we’re trying to support businesses like Inditex in first understanding these issues accurately and then taking action in an informed way.”
Joseph Julian K.G. and Shankar A G, Swasti Health Catalyst
- Strengthened systems to address sexual harassment grievances in factories by establishing policies and carrying out capacity building for management and members of worker committees.
- Creation of Social Protection help desks at the factory level where workers can more easily access social protection resources and services.
According to Inditex:
- 4 factories have initiated these programs so far, covering 3,550 workers.
- 36 employment agencies and 327 peer educators have been trained in the prevention of gender-based abuse in employment practices.
“Our Sakhi related work is not just a project. It’s a movement, and it’s creating change both inside and outside of factories. We’re aiming to achieve this positive change toward gender equality and worker health in a culturally aware, progressive way by adding new dimensions every year and committing to the long-term work of changing mindsets and – most importantly – behaviors.”
Mayank Kaushik, Inditex