OEKO-TEX® celebrates women forging change

This year's International Women's Day theme is #EmbraceEquity. It highlights the importance of the United Nations’ fifth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): Gender Equality. The SDGs align with OEKO-TEX® core values - for our team and the industry. We support the professional development of women by forging inclusive work cultures at OEKO-TEX®, while our certifications and labels promote these values by our partners.  

With up to 80% of the workers being women, the textile and leather industry is a female industry. But, the majority of clothing production is considered entry-level work for young women, with little prospect for career advancement. There are few females in leadership roles. The movement to change this imbalance includes the OEKO-TEX® team. While ensuring trust and sustainability in textiles and leather, they are forging pathways to empowerment and change. Here are three examples. 

Kanza Furrokh is an OEKO-TEX® STeP Auditor with Aitex Pakistan. She earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering. During that time, she developed a keen interest in environmental restoration and pollution control. “My dream came true when I was offered this job because almost all the branches of environmental management are covered in STeP certification. I was introduced to vast opportunities for growth and to practically observe all the areas in textiles that can impact the environment.”- says Kanza.  

When performing textile facility audits, Kanza noticed that many companies are working toward gender equality and empowerment. “There is definitely a trend of women empowerment starting in Pakistan because I have encountered women working as assistant compliance managers of different factories.“ 

Elisa Rimmele, Head of Quality Management and Auditor at OEKO-TEX®, shares similar experiences. In her role, Elisa audits our testing institutes and visits facilities around the globe. “I am really happy to see the diversification in leadership in the different countries. I feel that more women are fighting their way to leadership positions and are being an example for others. They get more and more educated and vocal about the issues. There are millions of unskilled female laborers in textile productions, and their experience must be heard and understood.“ 

The sounds and smells of textile production warm Elisa’s heart (weaving machines, warm cotton ready to be spun, a dye kitchen). The trained seamstress moved away from cut and sew to address the complete textile chain when she finished her Master’s degree. “I love textiles and clothing but know that the textile industry faces many challenges. Travelling to production countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh shows me how privileged I am. The environmental and social toll that cheap manufacturing is putting on the often-female workforce is massive. I use my influence to help change our industry for the better.“ 

Aklima Khatun is General Manager for Hohenstein Bangladesh, one of the OEKO-TEX® founding institutes. Regarding women’s empowerment in her country, Aklima states: “It’s a very positive sign that women are attracted to textile sector and consider it a career-oriented job that is not only for men. Especially the last 10 years, women are in leadership positions. Women are the core textile workforce in Bangladesh.” 

The “equity” in #EmbraceEquity includes both justice and capital resources. Gender Equality goes hand in hand with No Poverty, Good Health and Wellbeing, Quality Education, Decent Work and Economic Growth as well as Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. Therefore, this smart theme supports all people.  At OEKO-TEX® we continue to work on Gender Equality to meet all these goals both as an employer and a leading certifier.