Five global companies today announced new and expansive commitments to improving the health and well-being of an estimated 585,000 women workers as well as community members around the world in the next ten years, helping connect the dots between women’s shift into the global workforce and their unmet need for essential health care, which has been exacerbated in the COVID-19 pandemic. Commitments from Del Monte Kenya, the Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association, Farida Group, MAS Holdings, and PVH Corp. will reach workers in Ethiopia, India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Sri Lanka and more with health, well-being, and empowerment information and services such as contraception, maternal health, non-communicable diseases, menstrual hygiene, and protection from sexual harassment and gender-based violence.
These commitments are part of a global movement by companies with supply chains that primarily employ women to shift their business practices to meet the health and well-being needs of their workforce while bolstering long-term business returns and reflecting increasing consumer demand for ethical business practices. These commitments are more critical than ever in the midst of a global pandemic that disproportionately impacts girls and women, who bear the brunt of the health, economic, and caregiving burden brought on by COVID-19.
“Women are the foundation of the global workforce, especially in sectors hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, like apparel and agriculture,” said Seema Jalan, Executive Director of the Universal Access Project at the United Nations Foundation. “When women can control their own health and well-being, it is a basis from which they can realize other rights and determine their own lives and futures. Companies have a unique opportunity to provide essential care that their workers want, while also helping build a healthier, more productive workforce that is actually more resilient to crises in the long-term.”
- Del Monte Kenya, regional leader in exports of fresh pineapple juice and canned pineapples, commits to reaching 10,000 women employees and community members with reproductive health information and services through company-led programs by 2024. “At Del Monte Kenya, it is our team members’ well-being that gives us the capacity to provide wholesome, safe and fresh products, and as a company, we do our part by ensuring that our staff is cared for in all that we do. With women making up 45% of our 6,500 employees, we strive to offer them fair wages, a safe workplace, access to quality reproductive health care, education on family planning, and opportunities for growth. This we do, with a strong conviction that we cannot achieve ‘A Better World Tomorrow’ without the support, dedication, and talent of each of our team members, including our women,” said Stergios Gkaliamoutsas, Managing Director of Del Monte Kenya Limited.
- The Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association (EHPEA), a membership organization of 126 producers of flowers, fruits, and vegetables for export, commits to expand its workplace training program, Empowering the Source, to an additional 50 member producers, reaching 40,000 workers including 30,000 women workers with health education including family planning, menstrual hygiene, maternal health, and protection from gender-based violence by 2025. “We are making this commitment to our female employees, our members, ourselves, and the communities in which we operate. The future is bright for Ethiopia’s horticulture sector, and we know that supporting the health and well-being of our women workers means a stronger, more resilient workforce now and in the long-term,” said Mr. Tewodros Zewdie, Executive Director of EHPEA.
- Farida Group, India’s largest shoe manufacturer, commits to expanding its Worker Champion program to reach its 25,000 women workers with training and awareness on reproductive and maternal and child health, prevention of sexual harassment, financial literacy, and professional advancement by 2024. “We believe that empowering a woman empowers her family directly and her community indirectly. Our approach is to focus on health care, holistic development, safety, and education of the women workers. It gives us immense satisfaction when programs instituted by us help our women employees overcome challenges in their lives. And I feel proud that our approach is a catalyst for positive change in the women’s lives,” said Mr. Rafeeque Ahmed Mecca, Chairman of the Farida Group.
- MAS Holdings, South Asia’s largest apparel manufacturer, is expanding its 2019 commitment to reach an additional 10,000 people — for a total of 20,000 people — by 2021 through its Women Go Beyond program, which, in partnership with the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka, offers training, information, and services on women’s health and well-being, including reproductive health, non-communicable diseases, and addressing and preventing gender-based violence. “Addressing gaps in health and well-being for our workforce, has always been an important part of our core business. We have the opportunity and ability to change, not only the access to medical care and well-being, but also the mindset relating to essential health and hygiene issues that stem from stereotypes, misinformation and taboos. Access to health care and information is essential for an empowered, motivated workforce,” said Suren Fernando, CEO of MAS Holdings.
- PVH Corp., one of the largest fashion and lifestyle companies in the world with suppliers in over 40 countries, commits to providing professional and life skills development programs and services to 500,000 women across its supply chain by 2030. “The vast majority of the workforce across the apparel value chain consists of women. Removing barriers to and creating opportunities for the advancement of women is an important focus area for us. Our Empower Women goal will not only further strengthen our commitment to have a positive impact on the women in our value chain, their families and their communities, but we hope that it will inspire others to join us in accelerating this essential work,” said Manny Chirico, Chairman and CEO of PVH Corp.
These companies join the ranks of nearly a dozen others whose commitments to women’s workplace health and empowerment announced in 2019 are still in full force despite shifting timelines and strategies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Self-reporting from these companies a year after their pledges show that, across the board, companies remained committed to their efforts to invest sustainably in the health and well-being of their women workers, even in a global crisis.
The United Nations Foundation’s Universal Access Project is leading the Private Sector Action for Women’s Health and Empowerment initiative to work with companies that have large global supply chains employing millions of women workers to improve the health and well-being of their workers. To learn more about these commitments and explore the business case for investing in workplace women’s health and empowerment, visit www.privatesectoractionforwomenshealth.com.
About the United Nations Foundation
The UN Foundation brings together ideas, people, and resources to help the United Nations drive global progress and tackle urgent problems. Our hallmark is to collaborate for lasting change and innovate to address humanity’s greatest challenges. Learn more at www.unfoundation.org.
Senior Communications Manager, Universal Access Project at the UN Foundation