Leading Milliners Pioneer Gender Initiative: Charting a Course for a More Inclusive Clothing Industry

by | Dec 8, 2023

Karachi-based denim maker, Artistic Milliners, is leading an initiative to improve working conditions in the global clothing and footwear industry. The company has become the first participant in the trial of Better Work’s Gender Initiative, a joint effort by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The program, called “Building Healthy, Safe and Respectful Factory Floors,” aims to combat gender-based violence and harassment while promoting awareness, prevention, and response to unacceptable behavior.

To achieve these goals, Better Work has created a comprehensive training program using virtual reality (VR) technology. Artistic Milliners employees use VR headsets to see the workplace from their colleagues’ perspective, fostering understanding of the challenges they face. This innovative approach encourages critical thinking and empathy, giving workers a unique chance to engage with gender equality.

Caroline Bates, the country program manager for Better Work Pakistan, stresses the importance of creating an environment where both men and women feel comfortable sharing and interacting with their coworkers. Recognizing this need, Artistic Milliners sought guidance from Better Work to develop a training program that supports gender equality and effectively prevents and addresses incidents of unacceptable behavior.

The pilot program at Artistic Milliners has been a success, with 225 employees participating in VR-based learning, role-playing activities, and interactive games. VR technology has proven to be a powerful tool in breaking down barriers and fostering empathy among the workforce.

A key aspect of the program is the “Breaking Taboos Through Theater” component, where participants engage in theater exercises to challenge societal norms and address sensitive topics. This component encourages open discussions and creates a safe space for employees to share their experiences and opinions.

The success of the pilot program at Artistic Milliners has laid the groundwork for future sessions. Factories enrolled in Better Work undergo assessments, advisory sessions, seminars, and training to improve working conditions and promote a culture of respect and equality.

Artistic Milliners’ active participation in the pilot program sets a positive example for other companies in the industry. By taking proactive measures to address gender-based violence and harassment, they are leading the way in creating healthier, safer, and more respectful factory environments.

The collaboration between Better Work and Artistic Milliners marks a significant milestone in the global clothing and footwear industry. It demonstrates the industry’s commitment to establishing a work environment that values and respects all employees, regardless of gender. By using innovative approaches like VR training and theater exercises, companies have the ability to create meaningful change and foster a culture of inclusivity and equality.

The success of the pilot program at Artistic Milliners shows the power of collaboration and the potential for transformative change within the industry. As other companies witness the positive outcomes of this initiative, it is hoped that they will follow suit and implement similar programs to support gender equality and cultivate safe and respectful work environments.

In conclusion, Artistic Milliners’ participation in Better Work’s pilot Gender Initiative is a significant step towards improving working conditions in the global clothing and footwear industry. By embracing innovative training methods like VR-based learning and theater exercises, the company is setting an inspiring example for others. Through their commitment to addressing gender-based violence and harassment, Artistic Milliners is paving the way for a more inclusive and dignified future within the industry. This partnership between Better Work and Artistic Milliners highlights the industry’s dedication to creating a work environment that values and respects all employees, ultimately contributing to a more equitable and empowered workforce.