Commitment to a lasting change
At a training center for textile workers on the outskirts of Bangladesh’s capital city, Dhaka, every year around one hundred vulnerable women get training that can lead to a life outside the slums. Here, KappAhl, together with a local help organisation, offers training that allows the women to sew, take care of their health and provides them with knowledge about their rights in a strongly male dominated society.
Bangladesh is one of the world's poorest countries and also one of the most populated. This agricultural country is strongly characterized by floods and other natural disasters that occur every year, which means that many people are unable to support themselves or have a roof over their heads. By procuring production within the important ready-to-wear clothing industry, KappAhl contributes in several ways to the development of society in Bangladesh and in creating alternative ways of earning a living.
Women in Bangladesh live an especially tough life and have few, if any, rights, very limited freedom of movement, and a considerably lower literacy rate than men. With the growing ready-to-wear clothing industry, hope is created. This can contribute to creating opportunities for women to take a place in society and obtain a sense of dignity they lacked previously. During 2010, KappAhl, together with the local organisation, Tabibur Rashid Chowdhury Health & Education Development Society (TCM), started a training center to help women from the slums to get work within the ready-to-wear clothing industry. Each year at the training center, 100 women between the ages of 18-45 get training in sewing, ergonomics, safety and quality. The training takes a comprehensive approach in order to improve the women's living conditions. They get fundamental writing and reading knowledge and also personal advice regarding hygiene, diet and health and other subjects that they previously had no knowledge in. The lunch that is served daily at the center is an important contribution to the women's development since many are undernourished when they start their training. To further ensure the women's wellbeing they are given medical examinations when they start their training and when it is completed.
Women take these new skills and experiences home and utilize them in society, something that raises the standard of living for their families and communities. Elin Wiklund is employed by KappAhl to cooperate with TCM and further develop the operations at the training center. Elin talks about the importance of making the training as comprehensive as possible. The participants are already aware that no part of the path to a working life can be taken for granted.
“In addition to knowledge about sewing, the women also are given knowledge about their rights and obligations at a workplace and in society. This can be something as obvious as having the right to overtime compensation. Many of the women cannot read, write or count,” says Elin and tells how happy the women are about being able to be there and about their eagerness to learn. The training program at the center is a four-month program and is complemented with a three-month internship at one of KappAhl's suppliers. Here, women are offered good working conditions and full salary. After the internship they are certified and are then attractive employees within the ready-to-wear industry where there is a lack of skilled labourers.
The fact that the women get an income for their work results in a major change in their lives. Through that, they can support themselves and their families and they gain self-respect. The insight that life can be better, something more, can then be spread further to other women in the area. Elin Wiklund tells of a Bangladeshi family where a young, single mother received an education, which in turn inspired her own mother to dare to go to the training center.
“The majority of the women have never even been outside their slum area before. Through education at the training center they get completely new opportunities,” says Elin. Despite a society with strong male dominance and difficult conditions in the nearby slum areas, this is still a breeding ground for lasting change.
“You are amazed every day about the warmth and gladness that exists among the people here. Everyone helps, they take care of each other and there is a strong sense of unity and consideration even among those with the worst conditions.
KappAhl’s work for a sustainable world
Long-term action for sustainability is a prerequisite for a successful company – it is this fundamental belief that KappAhl works in accordance with. That is why KappAhl actively works for long-term, positive development of society and people, locally and globally, within areas that are related to our operation and production: social projects, environmental projects and work environment- related projects. KappAhl is happy to cooperate with others on these types of projects so that the possibilities to make a real difference are increased. Current examples of commitments in our production countries include:
KappAhl is a member of Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), a global, non-profit organization that contributes with competence and helps member companies to do business with respect for ethical values, individual persons, society in general and the environment.
As a member of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), KappAhl works to ensure access to sustainably grown cotton in the world. Via BCI, growers learn to use less water, chemicals and pesticides than in conventional cotton growing. The growers also learn to improve their working and living conditions.
KappAhl has a long-term cooperation with the Hunger project, whose goal is to reduce hunger in the world by helping vulnerable people to improve their situation.
In 2009/2010, KappAhl cooperated with SEDF within the World Bank and SIDA in order to improve production processes based on the perspective of water, chemical and energy use. The cooperation has taken place in Bangladesh and India and also includes, in addition to SEDF within the World Bank and SIDA, suppliers, other buyers and consultants.
Yarn and cloth manufacturing has a major impact on the environment as a result of emissions of chemicals to the soil and water. KappAhl wants to create better processes that lead to reduced effects through cooperative projects with suppliers in Bangladesh. In 2010, KappAhl, together with 24 other Swedish companies in the textile and leather industry, formed the Swedish Textile Water Initiative, STWI. The purpose is to develop joint guidelines for sustainable water usage in production.