“The trainers trained me in a critical process [of sewing the bottom hem]. My brother [was] surprised and said that a senior male operator needs at least 6 months to learn it. How can I learn it in 15 days?!”
Meet Mukta.* Mukta is a sewing machine operator. After her marriage broke up, her brother suggested she work at a factory that is one of Primark's suppliers. That was in December 2017 and Mukta hadn’t yet turned 20.
Mukta became a trainee in the Sudokkho program — a project funded by the UK and Swiss governments in partnership with Primark. It is just one of the many programs we have supported to increase opportunities for women across our supply chain since 2011. These programs are designed to help women develop skills, as well as overcome barriers to promotion and job progression, with the overall goal of creating a better workplace environment.
We focus on women because around they are some of the most vulnerable people in our supply chain all over the globe. Our hope is that by offering better representation in the workforce and helping more female workers progress in their roles , they will have the opportunity to earn better salaries and obtain higher positions, and that this will serve as a starting point for addressing gender imbalances in factories worldwide.
We are planning to extend these programs to more factories and workers by 2030. We want to build on what we have already learned to cover more countries, and, crucially, more workers.
For Mukta and women like her, it makes a lot of sense to join Sudokkho and similar programs. They learn new technical skills through structured, in-house training, allowing them to move up the ladder quicker than normal, with a better prospect for promotion and an increase in salary.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing. Once she’d finished her training, Mukta’s co-workers doubted her new skills. They didn’t want to give her a chance — until they saw what she could do. For Mukta, the Sudokkho training was life changing, just as it has been for many other women.
Now her employers consider her a multi-skilled operator and one of their go-to workers when it comes to taking on board new processes.
Factories and Sudokkho
The Sudokkho program not only helps women like Mukta, it also helps the factories of Primark's suppliers, by providing a skilled workforce more quickly. A study of this program showed that well-trained workers generally achieve 50% performance within 15-to-20 days of completing the program, whereas it typically takes an untrained worker 3-to-4 months to reach the same standard. The secret of its success? The Sudokkho program is focused on faster and more efficient training.
Sudokkho’s “Train the Trainer” model selects and trains the factory's very own trainers and assessors, so they can run the factory’s in-house training center and pass on their knowledge. This way, the factory gets to develop its own better-skilled, more motivated workforce.
Mr Shipu, Manager for Compliance and Admin, commented that this aspect of the program helped his factory better tackle workforce management:
“After implementing the Sudokkho project, if any crucial process workers are absent, the Sudokkho trainer finds other operational workers and trains them on a particular process. Upskilling these workers helps us significantly overcome issues caused by absenteeism.”
Our Customers and Sudokkho
We know it's important for our customers to learn about who makes their clothes — and it’s important to us, too.
Since we first started collaborating with the UK and Swiss governments on the Sudokkho program in 2016, it has reached 16,000 workers in more than 50 factories in Bangladesh.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on this and other programs has been, and continues to be, significant. But workers and managers have given Primark so much positive feedback on the Sudokkho program that our team is now preparing to relaunch it as the Sudokkho Factory-Based Training Program.
Primark Programs for Women and Vulnerable Workers
Sudokkho is just one of the initiatives we’ve worked on with governments, NGOs and our on-the-ground Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability team. There are many others. Many of them are smaller in scale, because they’re highly targeted and designed for local conditions. Having said that, given the size of our business, they have the potential to scale up to help even more people.
Collectively, these initiatives contribute to Primark’s commitment to greater sustainability by supporting gender equality and contributing to women’s empowerment.
*This story is based on a real-life case study, but all identifying personal details have been changed.