Fashion Industry’s Four Largest Women’s Empowerment Programs Form New Initiative RISE to Scale Impact

Photo by BSR/RISE

March 7, 2023
  • BSR Staff

BSR’s HERproject, Gap Inc., P.A.C.E, CARE, and Better Work have come together to form a new initiative called RISE: Reimagining Industry to Support Equality in order to scale impact and accelerate equality for women workers in global garment, footwear and home furnishings supply chains.

The launch of RISE, ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, comes as greater support is needed for women workers. It is estimated 75 percent of the 60 million garment workers are women who may experience gender inequality, and instances of harassment or violence at work, among other systemic barriers to empowerment and gender equity (source: the ILO). The COVID-19 pandemic and an increasingly difficult financial environment add to mounting pressure on women workers.

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 core strategies: (1) strengthening knowledge and skills for factory workers and managers, (2) transforming business practices to include 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.

The four founding partner organizations already work with 50 of the world’s largest apparel, footwear and home furnishings brands and have reached more than five million women workers globally. The ambition is to increase this to up to 20 million workers over the next decade. Companies who are supporting the development of RISE include Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Aje and Aje Athletica, AEO Inc (American Eagle and Aerie), BESTSELLER, Boden, Capri Holdings, Carter’s, Columbia Sportswear Company, Dôen, Hanna Andersson, Gap Inc., Inditex, Macy’s Inc., Marks & Spencer, New Balance, Primark, PVH Corp., Ralph Lauren, Tapestry, Inc., Target, The Children’s Place, The Walt Disney Company, The Warehouse (NZ), Victoria’s Secret & Co., VF Corporation, Williams-Sonoma, Inc.

RISE’s capacity building workplace programs aim to increase women workers’ dignity and equality in the workplace, by changing both behaviors and systems. The programs expand women workers’ choices and their ability and confidence to pursue their rights and opportunities. The training also engages male managers and coworkers to challenge social norms in the workplace. Program topics range from life skills such as communication and problem solving, general and reproductive health, financial health and security, freedom from sexual harassment and gender-based violence, and women's advancement and leadership.

RISE goes beyond workplace programs 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, labor organizations and unions, and women's movements.

Brands, buyers and suppliers can become a member of RISE and invest in a workplace program in their garment supply chain. Programs are currently operating in Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Egypt and Pakistan.

“It’s time to step up support for women workers in global garment supply chains. RISE will benefit from the proven approaches of its founding partners and go even further to reach more women, expand to more geographies and create more change. Brands and suppliers can join RISE straight away to take serious action towards gender equality,” said Christine Svarer, Executive Director, RISE.

“In joining together to establish RISE, our industry can leverage the strongest elements from each of our proven empowerment programs to have deeper, broader and more consistent impact for the women who work in our supply chains,” said Sally Gilligan, Chief Growth Transformation Officer, Gap Inc. on behalf of Gap Inc. P.A.C.E.

"CARE is excited to be part of this collaborative effort to transform the apparel industry. RISE will bring together stakeholders across the industry—brands, suppliers, women's rights organizations and unions - to achieve systemic change driven by women’s voices," said Lona Stoll, VP Innovation and Impact, CARE.

“Joining BSR’s HERproject with other leading women’s empowerment programs is the logical and necessary next step to take these proven solutions to scale. As a combined force, RISE can navigate through the complex issues of gender equality in global garment supply chains and deliver real action and impact for both businesses and women workers,” said Aron Cramer, President and CEO, BSR.

“The potential of this partnership to influence change at all levels from the enterprise up is unparalleled, as it brings together such a wide range of brands and retailers, and industry stakeholders that all agree about the importance of collaborating to improve working conditions for women, particularly in the garment sector,” said Conor Boyle, Officer in Charge, Better Work.

Better Work is a partnership between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group. Better Work promotes decent work and better business in the garment industry.

CARE is an international humanitarian organization fighting global poverty and world hunger by working alongside women and girls.

Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. program provides women and girls in the global apparel industry the opportunity to thrive with foundational life skills, technical training and support to advance at work, in their lives, and in their communities.

HERproject is a BSR collaborative initiative that strives to empower low-income women working in global supply chains. Bringing together global brands, their suppliers, and local NGOs, HERproject drives impact for women and business via workplace-based interventions on health, financial inclusion, and gender equality.

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