Since 2011 we have partnered with (BSR) Business for Social Responsibility, a global non-profit organistion, local partners and our suppliers on the HERhealth (Health Enables Returns) initiative. HERhealth provides - health education and access to healthcare to women working in the factories that make Primarks product.
Women make up about 80% of the workers that manufacture clothes for Primark. In low income countries women often lack access to adequate healthcare and the knowledge they need to look after their own health. Common issues include poor pre and post-natal care, anaemia, the risk of infections and illness including HIV / AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and tuberculosis.
The HERhealth begins by selecting a group of women from each factory as coaches. They are provided with a series of training sessions that take place at work. The idea is simple - women train other women on their health needs, and help support each other in their learning and understanding.
The coaches are then responsible for training the other women workers in the factory. The topics covered include healthy eating, family planning, HIV/ AIDS, malaria & dengue fever, maternal health, personal hygiene, reproductive cancers, menstruation, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
The local partners working with the factory and the coaches also assess the facilities and services that women need access to in order to maintain good health. As a result some factories have begun offering sanitary napkins at a discounted cost, or have created links with local clinics and hospitals.
Our short film on the HERhealth in Bangladesh shows the programme in action. It includes interviews with some of the women involved and explores how their lives have been changed.
I've learnt many things from the peer educators and The HERhealth, such as the importance of taking breaks, and the importance of nutrition and a good diet and that nutritious food does not have to be expensive. The training has taught me to eat vegetables as well as protein to give you energy.
I cook for my husband and he now eats better. I feel like I have much more energy than before. I am much better fed. I talk to my neighbours and mother about things I hear from the HERhealth. My real hope is that I will be a peer educator soon.
I was very shy before to discuss sex with my husband but now after the course, I feel more confident and can discuss with my husband about it and now our relationship is much closer. I even shared my knowledge with my female neighbours, they are now very keen to ask me more.
I will pass on all the information and knowledge I have learned to other workers and friends even when I leave this factory in the future because all the information is really useful, especially to those women who are quite shy of doctors.
I knew that a project was taking place in the factory when Tamina [a trainer] came to teach the peer educators about HERhealth. I told Tamina that I was ill and she told me to go to the work nurse. The nurse told my boss that I was unwell and he drove me to the nearest hospital.
I was diagnosed with cysts on my uterus and given treatment for three months. I told my sister about my problems and she said to me that she too was suffering from the same problems. She went to the doctor and had her uterus removed as she had a tumour. My sister says to me that she is still alive due to my advice.
Being a HERhealth coach gives me immense pleasure. I came here to work and earn money. But, now apart form earning money, I have learned lots of things and am able to pass on the learning to those who are unaware of these things, as once I was. I used to think that cancer was a communicable and an incurable disease.
But, in this training I learned that cancer can be a hereditary disease and certainly it is not contagious. I learned that through proper medication right from the initial stage, cancer can be curable. I now also train the new workers on how to manage the work place stress by doing yoga, exercise and meditation.
Before I joined here I didn't know anything about the topics, which I learned in the training. My sisters were married at a very young age. I have five sisters. One was married before 18 years and another one at 21.
After learning what is the right age for marriage I have discussed with my other two sisters and emphasized that they should not get married before 22. I have also convinced my parent's of this.
In Bangladesh health initiatives are being implemented into all our factories, and we're working with BSR and other local and international partners to do this.
Primark is currently working with BSR to extend the programme to a group of female cotton farmers in northern India.
The map above shows the location of Primark HERhealth factories across the world, and the number of women participating.