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October 25, 2021

The Very Group wins UN award for empowering women in India’s textile sector

The Very Group, which operates online retail brands Very.co.uk, Littlewoods.com, and LittlewoodsIreland.ie, has won an award for its work empowering young women in India's textile sector.

By Laura Husband

The Very Group received the community engagements and partnerships category award at the India United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Awards on 19 October 2021.

The award, which was presented at a virtual ceremony, recognises The Very Group’s work to create five community centres in southern India, which has helped to grow 25,000 female textile sector workers’ and their families’ knowledge of labour rights.

Very’s work in India, which it undertook alongside retailers Next and Varner, as well as NGO SAVE, comprised engagement with female workers and their families, textile mill owners and recruitment agents.

Activities delivered via five community centres included the formation of village committees to ensure observance of labour laws, awareness events on gender equality and labour welfare, and sessions on health and life skills for young women aged 12 to 17 years.

The Very Group’s head of sustainability Carly Bilsbrough who led the India mill project said: “Tackling complex issues to improve the lives of people in our supply chain is hugely important to us. And with concerns in recent years regarding labour rights violations around the practice of hiring women into textile mills in southern India, we made it our priority to support them.

The programme engaged recruitment agents across the five villages to ensure the adoption of fair and ethical recruitment practices, and included the establishment of agent coordination committees to create ongoing dialogue between agents, the wider community and textile mills.

At the textile mills, Very worked to ensure better relationships between workers and leadership teams, including support to boost worker life skills, confidence and awareness of employment rights. The training enhanced peer interaction, improved relationships between workers and managers, and supported in establishing better policies, procedures and grievance handling systems.

In addition, Very launched TIMBY, an app that allows workers and their families to raise concerns and grievances, and access support and remedies. 

Bilsbrough added: “We’re hugely proud of the project, and thankful for the enthusiasm and commitment of the communities, agents and mills we’ve worked with. We hope that this award will bring even greater focus on the development of women’s labour rights in Indian textile mills, as well as the textile industry globally.

“Our work in India is far from over. We plan to collaborate more closely with even more industry stakeholders to tackle concerns raised through our worker voice app. We’ll also create even more support via community centres for migrant workers and young women, in particular.”

The Very Group now qualifies for the Asia-Pacific WEPs Awards, which will be held in Bangkok on 18 November 2021. 

Last week, the group reported record full-year revenue and continued profit growth for the year ended 3 July, driven by Very sales and new customer acquisition.

 

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