To mark International Women’s Day 2021, BESTSELLER can reveal that more than 100,000 women have now been reached through its different empowerment programmes.

When launching Fashion FWD, BESTSELLER set the goal that ‘by 2025, we will support 100,000 women in tier 1 factories that BESTSELLER sources from to achieve workplace empowerment and improved life-skills’.

“Not only have we achieved a significant milestone – we also did it four years early,” says Andrei Vasiliev, BESTSELLER’s Social Impact Manager, highlighting that signing a five-year strategic partnership with BSR (the sustainability consultancy behind HERproject) in 2020 accelerated the efforts in the field – as well as the tireless hard work from BESTSELLER’s local responsible sourcing managers.

Andrei confirms that a new ambitious target is on the way.

“Until then we will of course continue our work with HERproject to empower even more women in our supply chain. We also focus on scaling up the impact from factory level to industry level to create learning opportunities for women throughout the fashion industry.”

Empowering through technology and new markets

While it has been difficult completing training sessions during the pandemic, reaching the Fashion FWD goal clearly demonstrates that the previous year has also had positive developments.

The spread of COVID-19 prompted BESTSELLER to invest time and resources in co-developing a novel app-based programme called ‘HERessentials’.

“Our efforts had to be accelerated, as the pandemic exposed and escalated women’s needs, and the demand for training was actually higher than normal. Together with BSR, we stepped up to the challenge with HERessentials,” Andrei says.

The programme aims to put technology in the hands of low-income women with low tech skills, while empowering suppliers to take ownership and provide worker training sessions on essential topics, such as providing a supportive and inclusive work environment.

The HERessentials pilot programme will soon be rolled out in Pakistan, as BESTSELLER recently signed an agreement with Work and Opportunities for Women (WOW – a programme funded by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) to accelerate plans of bringing the new tool to Pakistan.

Potential to change many lives

The roll-out will happen in collaboration with BESTSELLER’s supplier and long-term partner Artistic Milliners, targeting managers and factory workers in their factories. Faiza Jamil, GM for Corporate and Social Responsibility at Artistic Milliners, emphasises the novelty of HERessentials:

“The women working on our factory floors are the most hardworking, they deserve a safe work environment, as well as opportunities to progress. We have successfully launched many women’s empowerment programmes at Artistic Milliners. However, HERessentials is one of a kind – it really hits the bullseye when it comes to adaptability to changing times,” Faiza says.

Andrei explains that with WOW’s support, the programme will be tailored to local needs in Pakistan and rolled out across strategic suppliers.

“We feel the need to contribute directly to the success of women working in our supply chain. We are inspired by Artistic Milliners’ commitment toward women’s empowerment. I am confident that our collaboration to equip female workers with relevant tools and life-skills will directly contribute to their success at work, as well as in their wider community,” Andrei finishes.

Most participants have fully completed their courses, while others are presently going through training or in the pre-kick off stage.

Since 2012, BESTSELLER has been working with BSR and its HERproject, focusing on women’s empowerment in the global supply chain. In 2019, BESTSELLER became a HERproject catalyst member. In 2020, BESTSELLER signed a 5-year strategic partnership with BSR. HERhealth (health topics including STIs, nutrition, and pregnancy) /// HERfinance (financial management tools, mobile banking and financial inclusion) /// HERessentials (health and hygiene, nutrition, mental health, family planning and digital finance tools) /// HERrespect (gender equality and respect)