Jerry Chang is the managing director who oversees all production in Indonesia for PT Tainan Enterprises, an apparel production company with locations in Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Cambodia and Jordan. PT Tainan employs approximately 7,000 workers in Indonesia, 90 percent of whom are women. Their factory in Jakarta employs 4,500 workers who manufacture and ship clothes for well-known U.S. brands such as ANN INC. (parent company of Ann Taylor, LOFT and Lou & Grey). PT Tainan has been in business since 1994.
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, to sanitation, to 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. “At the very beginning ANN INC. introduced this project to us,” Jerry explains, “They also gave us some information about the benefits of the project in Indonesia, so we also thought that it would be very beneficial for our workers.”
For Jerry, PT Tainan as a whole, and supportive buyers like ANN INC., the benefits of providing employees with access to reproductive health information and services that enable them to choose when and how many children to have are two-fold: First, enabling women workers to plan their families improves their lives – they and their children will be healthier; they will be better able to balance their families lives and work lives; and they will 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 empowerment that comes from the reproductive health education, saying, “The HERproject teaches workers about how to better manage their lives by planning the number of children that they have that would best fit their own lives. And so it helps the worker in planning their family and also work balance.” On the benefits to business, he adds, “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. “In PT Tainan, there are around 90% women. They’re very important to our factory. That’s why after we implemented HERproject, we’ve found it very helpful for us. The health of these female workers is an asset of the company. 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,” emphasizes Jerry.
In addition to empowering the women workers through information about reproductive health, Jerry also adds that training the peer educators to be distributers of knowledge has created a team of dedicated leaders at the factory. “At the very beginning when we selected the P.E.s [peer educators], we 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 explains.
Jerry and PT Tainan have no intention of ending the HERproject any time soon. According to Jerry, “We are still running the HERproject even after the trainings, and we’re still keeping the project rolling by having the [peer educators] extend the knowledge to their family, their friends, and even to an orphanage.” “We’ve been running a lot of different projects in the past and so far we do think that the HERproject is the best for the garment industry,” Jerry adds with a smile.
“We’ve been running a lot of different projects in the past and so far we do think that the HERproject is the best for the garment industry.”
“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.”