Cooperative of SEKEM Employees | Our Values | Empowering Women & Gender Strategy | Diversity & Equality
Empowering Women for a Balanced Society
We are well aware that women are facing challenges when it comes to finding a balance between working and family life. Their main role in the Egyptian society is traditionally seen in being mothers and housewives, but we consider taking part in public and especially working life as highly important for the individual development of each citizen. Therefore we support the participation of women in public life and their right for employment and their own income by promoting the concept of gender equality in all components of SEKEM. Concrete actions to raise awareness for women and work have been taking place in NatureTex by film screenings for male and female employees and the establishment of a company journal tackling the issue of women and work. In the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development all students are attending an obligatory session for gender equality in their first year and are thereby encouraged to reflect on and discuss the situation of women in Egyptian society.
Supportive Work Environment
Since female employees are usually affected by obstacles concerning their employment related to their families and to the traditional norms of society, we support them by a women-friendly work environment. SEKEM guarantees all employees a safe and clean workplace, which is especially important for women who are often not allowed to work in factories out of fear from harassment, because working conditions in a factory are not considered suitable for women. Furthermore, SEKEM offers them the opportunity for acquiring additional skills courses for alphabetization, computer or languages in cooperation with the SEKEM Development Foundation. Additional to the skills development offers we have also established regular medical advice sessions for reproductive health for female employees from NatureTex and ISIS in order to give them general information about pregnancy and maternity as well as giving them the chance to discuss personal questions concerning their marital life and reproductive health. The support and appreciation from SEKEM as their employer is vital especially for young women who consider work an important value in their lives and want to keep their jobs also when they start building up their families.
Since we have the biggest proportion of females in the workforce in our company NatureTex for organic cotton textiles and dolls production with around 30% women, we started a pilot project for women’s empowerment at the workplace there in 2012 to encourage them to keep their employment after marriage. Based on a gender-sensitive value chain analysis in cooperation with the GIZ (German Development Cooperation) the situation of women at work was analyzed to tackle their main obstacles at the workplace concerning the social legitimacy of their work. Besides fully complying with the Egyptian Labor Law allowing maternity leaves and work break regulations to facilitate employability of women we started implementing trainings for technical and social leadership trainings as well as on-the-job trainings to support especially women in their career development.
SEKEMs Gender Strategy for a Balanced Society
The SEKEM Group sets the framework of values guiding all operations concerning its commitments regarding legal compliance, business ethics, anti-corruption, labor standards, human rights and environmental responsibility in its Code of Conduct and works for a sustainable development where every human being can unfold his or her individual potential. These principles are also applied in SEKEMs educational institutions under the umbrella of the SEKEM Development Foundation (SDF) and in the Heliopolis University (HU), where students are educated in an understanding of sustainable development and the development of ethical values.
SEKEM as a community is well aware of the fact that women and men in Egypt are facing different challenges, whereby especially women are struggling to find a balance between work and family life because of traditional family roles and in particular economic dependence. Therefore, SEKEM supports women for a balanced society where men and women have the same chances to make their individual choices concerning their education, work and lifestyle.