Danish fashion brand, Bestseller, will launch a new women's empowerment initiative in Turkey in collaboration with ACEV, a non-profit dedicated to women's and children's education. The initiative will be focused on empowering women garment workers employed by its Turkish suppliers, building on the achievement of attaining the Fashion FWD aim of empowering 100,000 women four years ahead of schedule.
The Turkish market accounts for around 15% of Bestseller's business volume, making the partnership with ACEV a critical step toward achieving the goal of providing female garment factory workers with the skills, environment, and opportunity to make educated personal and professional decisions.
Andrei Vasiliev, Bestseller's Social Impact Manager, said that ACEV's experience and desire to attempt something new impressed us greatly. They've been working for decades and have a thorough understanding of their requirements, and they were willing to customize the curriculum to accommodate the subtleties specific to their sector,
When planning and developing programs like this women empowerment program, the Social Impact team prioritizes scalability.
Vasiliev added that their goal here is to contribute to an industry-level solution that they and other businesses in the country can use, in addition to making a beneficial impact inside their own supply chain. They hope that once the pilot is completed, they will be able to offer the program and the business case for having it to other brands buying from Turkey and persuade them to join, just as they did in Pakistan.
Bestseller has previously collaborated with BSR, an Indian education provider, to conduct women's empowerment programs in Bangladesh, India, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and, most recently, Pakistan. However, because BSR did not cover Turkey, Bestseller needed to find a new partner, which they did with ACEV.
ACEV will collaborate with Bestseller to build a curriculum for a women empowerment program that combines lessons learned from BSR programs in several markets. The trial will run for ten months at four carefully selected suppliers after the curriculum is finalized. Between 1,500 and 2,000 women are expected to attend ten seminars concentrating on a variety of themes, ranging from health resource access to digital literacy.
Seçil Orhan, Bestseller's Social & Labour Manager in Turkey, said that over the years, he has conducted hundreds of interviews with women who work in their suppliers' factories as part of their due diligence process – their stories and struggles stay with him, and he is so thrilled that they 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.
Internal migration is a problem unique to Turkey's apparel industry. Women frequently go from villages to cities such as Istanbul or Izmir in search of factory work.
Seçil added that these women are frequently separated from their families and support networks, the majority of whom have not completed high school, and they can be vulnerable to various forms of exploitation – especially if they are unaware of their rights or the mechanisms available to them to address their concerns. This is something they want to make sure the curriculum addresses - knowing their rights has an influence not only on these women but also on their friends and peers, with whom they will hopefully share this knowledge.
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