When we launched the Women in Factories Training Program earlier this year, we knew that ultimately we are accountable to the women we are working to empower. If we at Walmart and our NGO partners do not create an environment where we are working together toward a common goal of truly empowering the women working in the supply chain, then we will have failed.
That is why we traveled to India and Bangladesh last week to meet with our local Walmart Ethical Sourcing teams and our NGO partners CARE, Swasti and DAI to learn from the work each of us is doing and improve the program together.
As we’ve gone through these initial sessions, one thing that is truly impressive is the passion our NGO partners have for this program as well as their willingness to work together, and with the factories, to make the program truly successful and sustainable for all parties.
For example, CARE, our partner in Bangladesh, has consulted with the factories on their production schedules and designed several different options for training timelines to ensure the program continues at a steady pace without disrupting the factory’s business. Our partner in India, Swasti, told us that they do everything they can to accommodate a factory’s production schedule. If a factory wants training in the early morning, late after work, or wants to start immediately, they are happy to accommodate them. This kind of passion for the work of empowering women in our NGO partners is inspiring and has led to a robust program that is truly responsive to the needs of women in the supply chain.
Despite our early successes, we know that we can continue to improve the program. One thing we worked on last week was finding ways to provide the women with tools to use the knowledge they are being given in their daily lives. A key way to do this is by working with CARE and Swasti to find methods to better help the women in the program understand the public services and health care options available to them.
For example, many of the women who have gone through the initial training told us how much knowing about proper sanitation has improved their overall health, but that knowledge does little good when they do not have access to toilet facilities at home. By making sure the women are aware of programs that help to provide sanitation facilities, the lives of both the women and their families can be improved.
We are also working to share our program with the other brands and retailers in the supply chain. In the end, we want the other brands and retailers to implement it in their own supply chains. To accomplish this, we are working with CARE to design an open source curriculum. As we continue on our journey to empower women throughout the supply chain, we know that we cannot do so alone. It is important to bring together our NGO partners, the factories and the women workers themselves so we can learn from each other and create a truly innovative program that will give the women working in the supply chain the education and training they need to not only achieve greater success in their jobs but also to live better lives.