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It was an honor to share our experiences on incorporating gender equality principles in business operations at the panel on ‘Gender Guidance for the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: From Paper to Practice’ at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, the world’s largest global gathering on business and human rights, held annually.
Women Deliver is the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women. It’s in some ways an unlikely event for an apparel business to attend, let alone be invited to speak. However, in a country where the number of women in the workforce is dropping rapidly (from 34% to 24% in the last decade), our industry is a crucial source of economic empowerment for low-skilled women as well as an advocate for advancing women’s participation in work outside the home.
Just over a year ago, a serious incident took place at one of our 65 factories, Unit 8, where unionized workers were attacked by non-unionized workers resulting in a violent exchange. It was widely covered in the media at the time and created truly regrettable reputational damage for our buyers. The incident and the behaviors that led to it are absolutely condemned by Shahi and go against our robust policies on freedom of association and anti-harassment. We take our responsibilities to our employees very seriously and have been leaders within the apparel sector in building a positive and supportive work culture. However, this incident is evidence that, despite many positive policies and initiatives, we have more work to do to protect the rights of all 100,000 of our workforce.
In 2007, Shahi was the first company to pilot Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.), a proprietary life-skills program by Gap Inc. We were also the first Gap Inc. supplier to be awarded the license to scale up P.A.C.E. by training women beyond our factories.