Judith Read Guernsey, “Building a Theoretical Framework for Supporting Women’s Health Enhancement in Global Apparel Supplier in Karnataka”

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Abstract:

The garment and apparel industry is the most globalized industrial sector in the world and the one that hires the greatest percentage of women worldwide. It provides an accessible and important source of income for women particularly in low and middle income countries. It has been shown that women who earn formal wages, in turn invest in their children’s education and provide food for the family, thus leading to reduced infant mortality rates and improved life expectancies in these regions. Yet there have been challenges associated with the globalization of the apparel industry throughout Asia. Building from Whitehead’s typology of actions to address social inequalities relevant to health, the purpose of this presentation is to outline an initial theoretical framework that will form the basis for a population health intervention designed to social, environmental and economic barriers experienced by garment workers in South India. Results of initial pilot studies of Indian female garment workers completed by our team in consultation with Manipal University faculty and students during the past two years, that have served to inform the development of this framework, will be presented.

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Over 70 % of the extreme poor of the world are women. These are more vulnerable for health issues, as well as gender inequalities. 20% of the world’s maternal deaths in 2012 were Indian. Half of all under-five deaths occur in just five countries, Including 25% in India.

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The garment industry represents 13.5% of all Indian exports, greatly through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Nearly 100 million women work in this sector: it is the world’s largest employer of women. Women are generally more sensitive to social responsibility values.

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The garment/textile sector is the largest non-agricultural employer in low and middle income countries; therefore, the potential impact of a successful intervention is enormous if the working and living conditions can be addressed appropriately. Our goal: to build supportive community environments for women garment working in South India.

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In the field of public health, these questions are strongly debated. Peter Hal believes that globalization can promise to improve human health not only through enhanced trade and resource flow, but also through the introduction of social innovation. But for Margaret Chan, the net benefits of globalization at the macro level have been asymmetrical, even increasing health inequalities in some cases.

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