Electronics companies participate in factory-based women’s health initiative in Mexico

HERproject, Health Enables Return, is a factory-based women’s health initiative by BSR that aims to provide positive benefits for women and business. Following the 2-3 June 2010 partner meeting, BSR has now published the 'Guidance for Companies to Improve Women’s Health in Supply Chains'. One of the participating companies in HERproject is electronics brand company Hewlett Packard and its supplier Pegatron in Mexico, which have been working with the local non-governmental organisation Health and Community Development, Ciudad Juarez (SADEC).

Electronics companies participate in factory-based women’s health initiative in Mexico

HERproject, Health Enables Return, is a factory-based women’s health initiative by BSR that aims to provide positive benefits for women and business. The HERproject workplace programme uses a peer-education training model. The programme is 12 months in duration and includes engagement with factory management to establish roles and responsibilities, an assessment of female workers’ health needs, peer educator trainings, and factory- based outreach activities. Programmes engage clinic staff and middle management to ensure that factory-based support is built and sustained after activities begin. The programme concludes with a discussion with factory management on methods to maintain the established investment in female workers’ health.

The corporate sector can play a big role in tackling gender equity by creating jobs for women and equipping them with the necessary skills. However, in order to employ women, major health challenges that currently act as barriers to women’s full and productive economic participation will require attention. AIDS, for example, is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age in low- and middle-income economies around the world1. Menstrual hygiene, nutrition and anemia, family-planning products and services, pre and post-natal care, and communicable diseases like tuberculosis are also major concerns. Such health challenges are significant for poor women and their families in developing countries. These challenges impact not only their personal lives, but affect their workplace performance as well. Leaders from the public to the corporate sector increasingly agree that investments in women pay off for families, communities, and business.

On June 2 and 3, 2010, BSR and 25 of its HERproject partners from China, Egypt, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam gathered in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to share best practices and challenges of our factory-based women’s health education program. Click here for the document 'Maximizing Women’s Health in the Workplace. Guidance for Companies to Improve Women’s Health in Supply Chains'.

One of the participating companies in HERproject is electronics brand company Hewlett Packard and its supplier Pegatron in Mexico. Working with Hewlett-Packard and a local organisation, Health and Community Development, Ciudad Juárez (SADEC), BSR launched HERproject in Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez. With violent crimes against women common and high instances of hypertension and diabetes, Juárez is a particularly dangerous and unhealthy place for young women, making it an ideal location for a workplace women’s health programme.

At Pegatron, one of HP’s participating suppliers, 47 peer educators were trained and later shared their knowledge with 1,090 (or 94 percent) of their female co-workers. Women used breaks, meal times, and factory-provided commute buses as opportunities to share information. The factory clinic also provided checkups to support the educational program activities, such as diabetes screenings, breast and uterine cancer screenings, blood-pressure screenings, vaccinations, a health fair, and pregnancy and child-care counseling. In addition to conducting quantitative surveys of 10 percent of the female factory population, Pegatron’s on-staff social worker, Vicky Corona, and BSR HERproject Manager Racheal Yeager interviewed female factory workers, peer educators, the factory nurse, and factory managers to discuss their experiences with HERproject. Interviewees felt that HERproject created multiple benefits for both individuals and the company.

About the program, HP’s Supply Chain Social and Environmental Responsibility Global Program Manager Zoe McMahon said, “In addition to improvements in workers’ understanding of many preventable diseases, the HERproject program has also provided an avenue for women to become spokespersons on behalf of other women workers with factory management about important health topics.”

BSR about the benefits of the programme:

Peer educators cited the knowledge they gained as the program’s greatest benefi ts. One peer educator said she valued learning about new things and being able to use that knowledge to help others. A Pegatron production manager, Frank Solis, pointed out that HERproject was educational for management as well as workers.

Workers said that preventative care was the most important knowledge they gained, and many said that they would now visit the doctor more regularly as a result of the project. Pegatron’s human resources director recognized the business benefi t from the lack of new employee disability claims for preventable diseases during the project period. The nurse said: “We consider  HERproject to be a useful and practical exercise for our employees to become more involved in preventative health care.”

Both the nurse and the human resources staff said HERproject helped them do their jobs better. The project improved worker relations and helped with recruitment. Clinic professionals learned how to communicate better with workers by observing how peer educators understood and shared health information with their colleagues.