Together with ACEV, a women and child education NGO, BESTSELLER will develop a new women’s empowerment programme in Turkey. The Turkish market accounts for roughly 15 percent of BESTSELLER’s business volumes, making the agreement with ACEV an important step towards reaching the goal of equipping female workers in garment factories with the skills, the environment and the opportunity to make informed decisions about their personal and professional life.

"We were very impressed with ACEV's experience and willingness to try something new. They have been working for decades and have a strong understanding of the needs we have and were willing to redesign the curriculum specifically to address the nuances specific to our industry," explains Andrei Vasiliev, BESTSELLER's Social Impact Manager.

Scalability is something the Social Impact team prioritises when scoping and developing initiatives like this women empowerment programme.

"As well as creating a positive impact within our own supply chain, our hope here is to contribute to an industry-level solution that can be applied by us and other brands in the country. Just as we did in Pakistan, we hope that when the pilot is complete, we will be able to present the programme, and the business case for having this programme to other brands sourcing from Turkey and encourage them to join."

A personal achievement

Historically, BESTSELLER has worked with BSR to deliver women empowerment programmes in Bangladesh, India, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and most recently Pakistan. However, with BSR not covering Turkey, BESTSELLER needed to find a new partner – ACEV.

Under the new partnership, ACEV will work with BESTSELLER to develop a curriculum for a women empowerment programme, which incorporates lessons from BSR projects in different markets. Once the curriculum is finalised, the pilot will run over 10 months at four hand-picked suppliers. Between 1,500-2,000 women will attend 10 sessions focusing on different topics, from accessing health resources to digital literacy.

The programme is a personal achievement for BESTSELLER's Social & Labour Manager in Turkey, Seçil Orhan:

"Over the years, I have conducted hundreds of interviews with women who work in our suppliers’ factories as part of our due diligence process – their stories and their struggles stay with me, and I'm so thrilled that we are now going beyond making sure they are okay, and actively helping them, providing women with education and tools that can help them achieve what they want in their lives."

One issue particular to the garment industry in Turkey is internal migration. Women often travel from villages to cities like Istanbul or Izmir to find work in factories. "These women are often separated from their families and support networks, most of them have not had a full education and can be vulnerable to different forms of exploitation – especially if they don't know their rights or mechanisms available to them to address their concerns," explains Seçil. "This is something we want to make sure the curriculum addresses – knowing your rights not only impacts these women directly, but their friends and peers who hopefully they will share this knowledge with."