Empowering Women in the Garments Industry

UNDP assisted in generating employment for female workers and developing skills of the garment industry by providing skilled workers and best practices in the industry. Photo: UNDP Pakistan/Satomi Kato

After getting married and giving birth to five children, Jahan’s world was completely changed by the sudden and unexpected death of her husband. Her parents and siblings did pitch in financially but eventually, could not continue bearing the cost of her children. Jahan had no technical skills and had never worked at a job in her life. After selling all the assets that she possessed, she eventually had to step out of her house in search for a job, any job. The most important thing for her was to ensure her children’s education.


  • 2,752 workers, including 70 percent women were trained and employed in the garment industry.
  • More than 10,000 female operators have been trained and around 95 percent of them have acquired jobs for the first time ever.

She went to a garment factory located near her house and her courage almost deserted her when a factory worker told her that garment workers were specially trained, and she didn’t stand a chance at getting hired. Jahan was about to leave when one of the factory operators told her that a UNDP project had started a training programme for garment stitching in this very factory, and preferred women who did not have any such skills.

This project was Promoting Employment & Productivity in the Garment Industry. For the first time in her life, Noor Jahan learnt the skill of garment stitching and is able to support her children on her own in the small town of Chungi Amar Sidhu, in the outskirts of Lahore, Punjab province. Noor Jahan and other female workers now enjoy a greater autonomy, independence, participation in household decision making, due to employment and income generation.

Competition in the global markets had pressurized the garment industry in Pakistan to produce high-quality goods at competitive rates. The industry faced a dearth of skilled and qualified works and also suffers from a very low participation of female workers.

This project has been successful in providing a pool of skilled workforce to the garment industry which not only has had an impact on the productivity and quality of the output but also has increased the competitiveness of the businesses. Through GEN-PROM, manufacturers have recruited and trained female workers which has led to a positive cultural change within the industry.

“We had number of machines and were unable to fill them to capacity with required operators, and were always underutilized. Fortunately when we signed up for this project, our strength of operators increased. And when we decided to open two more factories, this work force was very important factor in doing so,” says Wasif Shahi, owner of the Midas Safety Clothing Division.

The main objectives of the Gen-Prom project included generating employment for female workers, building capacity of the garment industry by providing skilled workers and dissemination of best practices in the industry.

This project was like a new lease on life for Noor Jahan and she sighed up for the training. During the training, usually ten weeks, she would be taught everything related to garment sewing. Jahan was ecstatic when she found out that she would also be paid a stipend during the training period and would be employed at the end of the training period.

Jahan started her training every morning at the factory and learnt how to put pieces of cloth together to form clothes and other apparel. Working on different specifications and sizes, on various machines, a whole new world opened to her.

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