By Aarushi Khanna
At the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative meeting Gap Inc. announced its plan to expand the outreach of its workplace education program P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement) to one million women and girls by year-end 2020.
P.A.C.E. was launched in 2007 to provide female garment workers with the skills needed to advance both in their personal lives and in the workplace. Recognizing the untapped potential of female garment workers and the difficulties they face in their lives, Gap Inc. along with ICRW and Swasti Health Resource Centre (Swasti), a Bangalore-based NGO, designed and developed the program over the course of 18 months. The curriculum includes lessons around communication, time and stress management, and decision making and problem solving.
ICRW has been working with Gap Inc. for nine years and over that time period, we’ve evaluated the P.A.C.E. program, which has provided us with a lot of information on the impact the program is having. Our analysis told us that P.A.C.E. has changed the lives of many female garment workers by providing them with skills that have been invaluable in creating opportunities for them to thrive personally and professionally. P.A.C.E. women have undergone significant shifts in many aspects of their lives such as feeling empowered to voice their opinions in household decisions, saving for their future, and working more effectively and helping peers at work.
“I have learned how to communicate effectively. Now I can solve any problem in the workplace by discussing it with the supervisor and line chief. Before P.A.C.E. I could not clearly discuss problems with my husband. Now I do not hesitate to talk to him and clearly express any idea or problem.” -FGW, Bangladesh
“Thanks to the training, I feel confident to communicate openly with my supervisor and colleagues on any issue related to work assignments or bonuses, and I seek help from them rather than keep silent and feel displeased as I did before.” –FGW, Vietnam
While the P.A.C.E. curriculum was initially proprietary and only offered to Gap’s garment manufacturing partners, in 2013 the program expanded to women in community settings. P.A.C.E. community programs have been implemented in in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. P.A.C.E. has touched the lives of over 36,000 women in twelve countries to this day.
In addition to working with women in garment factories and the community, Gap Inc. has decided to further expand the outreach of the program to equip women to be leaders in their communities or workplaces and empower girls between the ages of 13 and 18.
Gap Inc., along with their design and development partners, will create a new architecture for the P.A.C.E. program, one that includes both a women’s leadership curriculum and an adolescent girls program. We’re particularly excited about this expanded architecture as ICRW is partnering with Gap Inc. to adapt the current P.A.C.E. curriculum and build the foundation for the development of the adolescent girls program.
We know from our research that life is very difficult for adolescent girls, who face many challenges, including the onset of excessive limitations on their mobility as they get older. Because of these limitations, girls often find themselves unable to make decisions concerning their own lives. Even when they have aspirations and dreams about their future they often lack the skills and resources to feel confident and self-sufficient to work towards achieving their goals. “We girls have ambitions; I would love to train to become a government school teacher, but one needs the right resources to get training and get such a job, I don’t have the contacts and I can’t afford to be a burden on my parents” says a 15 year-old girl from a school in Delhi.
ICRW research indicates that while education is a crucial driver for change it is not sufficient to radically transform the status quo for girls. It is also important for girls to have the skills and resources to be fully aspirational about their futures as their experiences during adolescence have important implications for outcomes in adulthood. The Gap Inc. girls program will lay the foundations to bridge this gap and build ground for this fundamental shift.
ICRW will be leveraging its experience in implementing the GEMS and PAGE programs (both school- based curriculums empowering adolescent girls in India) in designing the curriculum of the P.A.C.E. for girls program. This program will be unique as it will be designed to suit the age-specific needs of adolescent girls and will be adaptable across different institutional settings including school, community, vocational training and institutions.
The journey ahead is an exciting one and ICRW is thrilled to be a part of the new path Gap Inc. has embarked upon in expanding P.A.C.E. to even more women, and for the first time girls. ICRW is excited to team up with Gap, Inc. to help the company, and its powerful program, reach the one million mark.