RAGS Project Engages Primark on Gender Discrimination

Primark's Ethical Trade Manager explains how the RAGS project workshops support the company's supplier development initiatives

February 2013

SAI India Program Dir. Rishi Sher Singh leads a workshop in English & Hindi for managers, workers
& supervisors in Gurgaon, India. For more photos, visit http://on.fb.me/YtXuOy
In 2012, SAI's RAGS Project exceeded its targets for number of participants in workshops to combat gender discrimination in the ready-made garment sector by raising awareness through the workshop, 'Management Systems to Address Gender Discrimination.' Led by SAI India Program Director Rishi Sher Singh, over 300 participants from 131 factories in Bangalore, New Delhi and Tirupur were trained, with more workshops scheduled through March 2013.

Among the active group of participants were representatives from the major UK and European retailer Primark, as well as representatives from 70 of their supplier factories. Deepak Sharma, Ethical Trade Manager at Primark, explained, "we found this as a good option to train our factories on this sensitive issue. We audit factories for social compliance issues and feel that such issues are difficult to identify due to their sensitive nature."

Primark staff and suppliers have actively participated in the trainings in New Delhi and Tirupur. SAI has also planned special trainings for Primark's buying house in New Delhi and Tirupur, giving focused attention and creating an intense learning group. The inputs provided by Primark staff during the trainings have provided valuable perspective on the issue of gender discrimination.

"Primark has been highly supportive of the RAGS Project," said SAI India Project Director Mr. Singh, "we appreciate Mr. Sharma's proactive approach to supplier development and openness to work with SAI on these gender discrimination trainings. We are pleased that brands such as Primark are linking to the funding provided by UK Aid and utilizing the training offered through the RAGS project"

Strategically, Primark widened the scope of participation to include representatives from varied job responsibilities - such as managers, supervisors and workers. "We thought of training our in-house [social compliance] team for the same and also sensitizing the factories to address root causes as well," said Mr. Sharma. "We also involved participants from outside the human resources and compliance function which was a good idea." Mr. Singh from SAI added, "with the recent sad event of the brutal rape case in Delhi in December 2012, India is awakening to women's rights and prevention of all kinds of harassment at work. The SAI training in RAGS is well timed and feeds into the overall sentiment of the country and the need of gender sensitization. Personally, all the trainings have been very emotional and touching, especially the acknowledgement from male participants on the need to respect women."

Changing attitudes by sensitizing people to challenging issues such as gender discrimination is critical to fostering change at the workplace level. "What I gathered from my team was that the workshops were wonderful as they brought different mindsets and ideologies together," said Mr. Sharma. "It gave everyone a chance to see the same issue differently and understand the nitty-gritty of the issue."

Additional supporters of the program include Gap Inc., Timberland, PGC Switcher, American Eagle, Burberry and the buying house Triburg. SAI's RAGS Project is funded by UK Aid's Department for International Development (DFID).

For more information and to participate in these courses, please visit  www.sa-intl.org/indiarags, or contact SAI Rishi Sher Singh at Rishi@sa-intl.org

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