“HERproject saved my elder sister’s life. She is a mom and a wife, and it also saved her family.”

HERproject Participant, Guangdong Province, China, October 2018

The quote above comes from a woman who participated in a HERproject health training for 400 workers at a factory in China’s Guangdong Province. After losing her mother-in-law to cervical cancer, the woman enrolled in HERproject’s health program, where she learned about HPV vaccines and the importance of cancer screenings. When her sister began to experience irregular bleeding, but was wary of spending money on a hospital visit, the woman used her knowledge to convince her sister to get screened. Doctors detected the early stages of cervical cancer, and the sister received treatment at Changsha Tumor Hospital. She recovered and survived. “Without HERproject,” said the woman, “another family tragedy would have reoccurred in my life.”

Workers participate in a HERproject health training in Hunan Province, China. Image: Williams-Sonoma, Inc.

Stories like these are the reason Williams-Sonoma, Inc. partners with HERproject, an organization that empowers women in supply chains through workplace programs promoting health, financial inclusion, and positive gender relationships. Operated by the global nonprofit Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), HERproject is helping us meet our commitment to educate and empower more than 100,000 workers by the end of 2020. To date, we’ve provided over 63,000 factory workers throughout Asia with education programs for health, financial literacy and gender equality. By building connections with local institutions, HERproject enables workers to access health clinics and formal bank accounts. The people who participate build confidence, knowledge and self-esteem, using lessons learned to lift up their peers and families.

“I trained 32 of my co-workers to share my HERhealth knowledge. One co-worker had a lump in her abdomen. She hoped it would resolve itself and avoided seeing a doctor to save money. Inspired by the training, she decided to go to the hospital. To her great astonishment, it was the early stage of ovarian cancer. She immediately received surgery, and the operation was successful. I visited her last month, and her family expressed their great gratitude to me. The knowledge I gained saved a person’s life and a family. I feel so proud and delighted.”

HERproject Participant, Hunan Province, China, April 2019
Graduates of HERproject at a factory in Shangdong Province, China. Image: Williams-Sonoma, Inc.

Surveys of HERproject graduates show significant increases in their knowledge of healthy eating, preventative care, pregnancy health, HIV/AIDS and safe contraception. At one factory in Shenzen, China, 100% of participants agreed that “this project empowered their self-confidence, led to healthier behaviors and improved worker-management relations.”

“What impressed me most was the AIDS lesson. With the teacher’s explanation, I realized that although the disease could not be cured, it could be treated. And AIDS patients are not infectious through daily contact — such as eating together, hugging and shaking hands — so we should oppose any form of discrimination against them.”

HERproject Participant, China, May 2019

Management also benefits from HERproject’s expert guidance, using their learnings to create more inclusive workplaces for women. In a survey conducted at another Shenzen factory, worker satisfaction increased 15% after the program’s completion, and workers who reported that management cared about their health increased from 47% to 75%.

HERproject graduates share their knowledge with peers, amplifying the program’s impact. Image: Williams-Sonoma, Inc.

As we continue to partner with HERproject in 2020 and beyond, we’re unlocking the full potential of women in our supply chain. We’re also part of a larger movement towards supportive, fair and dignified work environments for women in 14+ countries and counting. Learn more at herproject.org.

Hero Image: Pottery Barn.