UNIQLO Jumps on the Microfinance Train

We hear a lot about corporate social enterprise and microfinance these days, but have you ever heard of a project that combines the two?

Tomorrow, July 5th, marks the launch of the first two physical Grameen UNIQLO stores in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This isn’t UNIQLO headquarters opening some new branches in a third-world country to sell overpriced clothes to the top 1%. No, this enterprise has a different mission. From their website:

“Grameen UNIQLO’s objective is to address issues related to poverty, public sanitation, education, gender issues and the environment, by establishing a sustainable, community-level business cycle. Local involvement in the design, production and sale of clothing provides jobs, while helping to develop the economy and improve the quality of life in the country.”

Grameen Uniqlo

While we have to wait until tomorrow to see if the public likes it, Grameen UNIQLO’s website seems to cater directly to their target market. The online models are all fashionable and good-looking young Bangladeshis, and the women’s clothing is a modern version of the salwaar kameez, a long blouse covering ankle-length trousers.  The real question is, are these products priced for the average Bengali or will young women carrying UNIQLO bags become just another signal of growing inequality?

It may take a while to find out the real effects of an enterprise like this, but in the meantime, if you are in Dhaka in the next few weeks, check it out and let us know what you think!

brenna in the office croppedby Brenna Foster

Disclaimer: The posts and comments on this site do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CITYNET or its members.

A Report on Women’s Safety (Kathmandu) by Bimala Koirala, Kathmandu City Hall

Based on the motto, “women united-we will never be defeated,” the 3rd International Conference on Women Safety was held in New Delhi, Nov 22-24.

Among the 200 participants from 45 different countries, I gladly attended as a representative from Nepal. The programme made me feel proud to be a woman, for being able to stand up for women’s rights, and discuss our safety details worldwide. What I derived from the conference is that women safety is a serious issue not just in poor or third world countries like ours but, even in developed and well-off nations. Women need to feel safe from sexual harassment and social inequality. Yet, despite much success in women empowerment, numerous issues still exist, ranging from cultural and political to economic. We gathered at the congress to discuss these issues, as well as methods and ideas to lessen unsafe practices regarding women from different perspectives.

Women have strengths that amaze. They carry children, they carry burdens yet they hold faith, happiness, love and joy. They smile when they want to scream and sing when they want to cry. They can wipe a tear, cover a cut and pat your back at the same time. In the past, women were expected to stay at home and look after the children, but women have changed over the years: they have ‘come out’! We talk about equality, equal wages, political correctness and acceptability in all walks of life, but can these factors exist? Gone are the days when she toiled at the kitchen stove all day long; she is aware of her needs and willing to fight for them. She expects to be given the respect she deserves, both at home and at work. Today’s women are learning to avoid situations that make them stressful and it is a hard struggle to reach that goal, but nothing can be called impossible. Women today raise their voices for rights and safety for a brighter tomorrow.

 

What did I learn???

  • From the first day, the conference made us reflect on the millions of women who are the victims of harassment and abuse.
  • Whether in the rural areas or in developed cities, women are not safe and there are still many obstacles in their path. They are victimized in one way or another.
  • At the conference, we shared experiences from our countries and also discussed how we to practice women safety in our cities.
  • The different workshops and panel discussions gave us a clear view of the challenges faced by all the cities, while maintaining women safety and also the precautions that should be taken.
  • We discussed and presented alternative solutions and recommendations for making cities safer for girls and women.
  • I was inspired by the examples set by the Indian women living in slum areas  who united and made a difference in their living conditions. This proves that “the woman who rocks the cradle can rule the world.”
  • In the workshop program, we also participated in discussions of women friendly services all around our cities, such as women friendly transportation and women friendly environments free from victimization (safe urban cities). This has encouraged me in conducting these services in my city.
  • In today’s era of technologies, I found out that women are more active and aware regarding their safety due to modern inventions which have made it easier to communicate with different women across the world.

 

What can be done in my city?

In the context of Nepal, the majority of women are unaware that they are being victimized. Until they realize their rights, “women’s safety” cannot be practiced in these areas. So, first and foremost, awareness among women regarding their rights and safety is crucial.

Here are some other ways in which women’s safety can be implemented:

  • Equal participation of women in every sphere of life in policy and decision making must be encouraged.

  • Implementation of laws made for the proper rights of women.
  • Expanding “women-friendly” public services.

  • Improving the capacities of local authorities and other key factors to respond to violence against women and girls.

  • Arranging for the sufficient allocation of  budgets for women’s development, i.e. gender responsive budgets.

  • Holding awareness programs like health check-ups, family planning, education, and maternal and child health care.

  • Working for gender equity and equality.

  • Conduct skill development programs for women in order to empower them, like sewing, cooking, hair-cutting etc.

  • Organizing basic education classes for uneducated elderly women.

Barriers in women safety in Nepal :

  • Women trafficking.
  • Lack of education and awareness in women.
  • Dependency of women on men in every aspect.
  • Lack of implementation of rules and regulations.
  • Poverty and unemployment.
  • Social and cultural values.

CONCLUSION:

Hearing about the  grass roots successes women achieved in policy making from different women worldwide, who shared their experiences, stories and struggles, benefitted all of who attended the conference. The three-day conference not only inspired us but also motivated us in working towards women safety.

It’s high time we join our hands to achieve “women safety.” Let’s not only limit women safety to speech, but let’s take a vow to work toward it in the future. Regarding women safety as a serious issue in today’s world, we must make strong efforts to bring it into practice in our daily lives.

The struggle for women safety continues unabated, and the women armed with wit and courage will be among the first to celebrate victory. Hence, fighting the battle for women, “WOMEN SAFETY” will always be my motto – starting from my home today.