Jerry Chang is the managing director who oversees all production in Indonesia for PT Tainan Enterprises. Three years ago at the suggestion of one of its buyers, ANN INC., and with Jerry’s leadership, PT Tainan decided to expand the scope of benefits it offered to employees and began providing workplace healthcare training courses on topics ranging from nutrition, sanitation, reproductive health and family planning. They did this through a program called the HERproject, created by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), which provides basic health care curricula and identifies a local NGO to train peer educators from the factory who will share their health knowledge with other workers.
For Jerry, PT Tainan, and ANN INC., the benefits of providing employees with access to reproductive health information and services are two-fold: First, enabling women workers to plan their families improves their lives. This is because they and their children will be healthier and will be better able to balance their families lives and work lives.They will also be better positioned to advance their careers, earn higher incomes, and ensure they can afford schooling for their children. Second, when workers are happier and healthier they are more productive and committed to the mission of their employers, which translates into better outcomes for the company.
Jerry explains the benefits of reproductive health services to the business, explaining that “throughout the three years we’ve been running the HERproject, our turnover rate has come down from one percent to 0.5 percent …. we see improvement in absenteeism, turnover, and in turn it helps with the productivity in general for the workers …. the sense of belonging of the workers has been improved a lot throughout the project.”
In an industry so dominated by women, a special focus on reproductive health becomes even more important. He states that the health of the female workers is an asset of the company, adding that “when they share a sense of belonging towards the factory … be it efficiency, production, or even workers’ peer-to-peer relationship[s], it uplifts the whole factory.”
In addition to empowering the women workers through information about reproductive health, Jerry explains that training the peer educators to be distributers of knowledge has created a team of dedicated leaders at the factory. He discusses how when they first started choosing peer educators, they chose people who were more outgoing “but even then after the trainings we found that giving them a mission, giving them a purpose, to share the knowledge they learned with other workers would really improve their confidence. And they would feel more comfortable speaking in front of other people, sharing information with others, and that also extends to their family and their friends.”
Jerry and PT Tainan have no intention of ending the HERproject any time soon. He says that although the company has run lot of different projects in the past, “ so far we do think that the HERproject is the best for the garment industry.”