88 Kearny Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Launched in 2007, BSR’s HERproject works in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Kenya, Pakistan, and Vietnam. Working with HERproject partner Extending Services Delivery, the program also demonstrates the business case (link to biz case page) for workplace women’s health education.
At the close of 2010, HERproject had completed or active programs in 50 factories reaching over 72,000 women workers around the world. In 2010, 7000 women were surveyed on their health needs and over 2000 were trained as peer health educators.
HERproject currently counts 14 international brands as contributing partners. In 2010, company cost-sharing totaled $300,000, or 35% of a total HERproject annual budget of $850,000.
HERproject enjoys generous support from the Levi Strauss Foundation and the Swedish International Development Collaboration Agency (Sida). BSR is currently seeking funding to maintain and expand HERproject activities around the world.
HERproject maximizes opportunities for women’s empowerment and leadership development by creating health ambassadors within the workplace and the community. From India to Mexico, HERproject peer educators develop communication and leadership skills, and they use those skills to share their knowledge with their co-workers, with their communities, and with their families.
Changing Health Behavior
In focus groups in one factory in Karachi, Pakistan, female factory workers shared that they were missing up to three days of work a month during their menstrual cycles. Women reported monthly pain, infections, and embarrassment due to a lack of knowledge about proper hygiene and limited access to sanitary napkins. Nearly three-quarters of women interviewed also reported that they had never seen a condom and they expressed extremely limited knowledge of sexually transmitted infections and prevention. For example, though most had heard of AIDS, not a single woman knew about HIV or how the virus was transmitted.
Fostering Company Collaboration
In Vietnam, three companies that compete in the consumer marketplace are supporting HERproject in a shared factory to further progress for women. In the factory near Ho Chi Minh City, representatives from Clarks, Columbia Sportswear, and Timberland work together with factory management and local HERproject partner Life Centre to implement a factory-based training program and ROI study.
Improving Worker-Manager Relations
In southern China, the world’s largest light manufacturing hub, worker- management relations are a significant challenge. In 2008 alone, unhappy workers filed 70,000 labor dispute cases. In this context, improving worker- management relations holds significant business value for factories participating in HERproject. To glean insight from factory managers and workers, HERproject’s He Zheng distributed anonymous surveys to three factories, two Timberland suppliers, and one shared Timberland and LS & Co. supplier. She received responses from 29 management staff and 71 workers, and she conducted in-depth interviews with two managers.
Touching Lives Beyond the Factory Floor
Samira lives in Ismailia and she is a middle-aged woman with three boys. She is the sole breadwinner of the family because her 84 year old husband is unwell. Samira can barely read and write, but she has proven to be an exceptional HERproject peer educator. Using her strong life skills, she has become a leader of health education in her workplace and her community.