Page 4: Making CSR happen
The HERproject is an initiative started by BSR (Business for Social Responsibility), a non-governmental organisation that works with over 250 companies on environmental, social and human rights. The HERproject has so far helped over 50,000 women in different countries. It has done this through working with companies like Primark, Primark’s suppliers and local health providers.
The HERproject is simple but surprisingly powerful:
- A small number of female staff in a factory (around 10%) is selected to become health education trainers called ‘peer group educators’.
- The local health service provider trains the peer group educators, who are then responsible for training the other women based in the workplace, passing on the message and helping to disseminate what they have learned.
The process emphasises mutual help and encouragement. The women trainers are effective because they fully understand the local culture. They are not seen as outsiders imposing strange ideas. Instead, the trainers understand why the women may be reluctant to seek help with issues that can be sensitive. They can build their self-confidence as well as their practical knowledge.
‘I didn’t have anyone to tell me how to look after myself, it wasn’t taught at school. The trainers told me that many diseases come from the unpurified water that I was taking from the tap. This water can be the cause of sickness, cholera and diarrhoea. At first my family said to me, how do you know this stuff? You work in a garments factory! I told them it’s what I have learnt from the HERproject. When I began to give them advice they started to get interested in the project. Everyone I have told now boils their water and they don’t suffer like before.’ Umme Habiba (garment worker)
The HERproject is also is helping others not directly involved in the project. Outside the workshops informal learning continues. Women build supportive relationships and talk to each other out of work. This is reinforced by the project helping to set up factory clinics and creating vital referral links to local hospitals.
Selina Kamal is a factory quality inspector and a peer educator for HERproject. Through her own training she is now more aware of the importance of cleanliness for herself and her children. They all now drink purified water and eat more vegetables. She has already helped a friend, Shilpi, who is a school teacher.
‘I came to Selina after I had two miscarriages and irregular periods. Selina advised me to go the doctor as she knew something must be wrong. The doctor prescribed me medication for my problem.’ Shilpi (teacher)