With all the bad and depressing things happening these days around the world, it is a big pleasure for us @Denimology to feature some encouraging and exemplary stories. As is the case with Artistic Milliners. Read on to find out:

To streamline our commitment towards a more diverse and inclusive workplace, Artistic Milliners plans to rebuild from within to tackle bias and overcome the diversity gap. Our strategy aims to foster an environment where all employees from different walks of life can thrive. Artistic Milliners has officially unveiled the first of its kind Diversity and Inclusion Strategy from a denim manufacturing company, rolling out a 3-year plan to make the company culture more inclusive.

“Now is the time for businesses to embrace the change and be braver than ever in the new world.” – Faiza Jamil, the Group General Manager CSR and Communications at Artistic Milliners delving into the breadth and depth of the need for diversity and inclusion strategies.

About the launch event:

Among the top management of relevant departments at AM, directors from partner organizations were also present at the launch event. The panelists included management from UNDP Pakistan, NOWPDP, The Pakistan Business Council, DepilexSmileagain Foundation and Deaf Reach School. Panelists discussed the need to influence and implement change and to link diversity and inclusion with the company’s core strategy.

This strategy has paved a pathway for Artistic Milliners to recognize employees for who they actually are by ensuring that diversity and inclusion improvements are being addressed at every level. Titled ‘Uncommon Grounds: The Case for Inclusive Strategy’, our strategy has laid out a clear business case for an inclusive work space and our key areas of focus:

We believe that action matters. It’s not enough to say we want to be inclusive. This quarter’s newsletter will serve as forum for our employees’ voices, narrating their experience of working at Artistic Milliners.

Breaking barriers: Our Deaf and Mute workers should feel heard

“I wanted my employees to be heard. I was there to listen yet I couldn’t understand what they had to say,” explained Ataullah, a Supervisor from Finishing department on taking sign language classes.

Communication is really important. People want to be heard and understood. Working as a supervisor, I need to hear out everyone’s concerns while ensuring everyone understands what tasks I expect from them. This is the key to timely and flawless production results. When we talk about diversity, hiring a person with disability is not enough. You need to go a step further in making sure the culture is considerate of the individual’s specific needs. Artistic Milliners has a number of hearing-impaired people in its workforce, but the gap in communication with them could potentially make them feel alienated. I wanted my employees to be heard. I was there to listen yet there were times when I couldn’t understand what they had to say.

When my company introduced sign language classes for employees who have direct interaction with hearing impaired people, I was happy and relieved at the same time. The classes taught me sign language from scratch. Starting with a simple alphabet to making complete sentences in sign language, I am now able to converse with my colleagues. Artistic Milliners has given me a new language that has opened a new door for me. And this has boosted the sense of belonging of the differently-abled people in our factory. The happiness speaks from their eyes and shows in their eagerness to work harder.

I believe it is important for everyone to learn sign language. It is essential for inclusivity of the deaf and mute workers. And I have no doubt, in the coming years; every employee here would know at least the basics of sign language.”

Soaring High: Your disability must not define you.

Arif

Arif is a manager in our Gerber Garment Technology Department. He is immobile due to disability in legs.

“I have worked at different places over the course of my career. Every business had a mandate to become accessible but there were different levels of accessibility in each place. Artistic Milliners has a more holistic approach towards diversity, inclusion and accessibility.

I started working as an operator and today, after multiple promotions, I am working as a Manager at Artistic Milliners. Here I felt accepted – I felt I finally had a voice that was heard. My suggestions actually mattered. My hard work and encouragement from co-workers, has paid off. Now I have my own office and a car. I never wanted my disability to define what I can and cannot achieve in life. A lot of credit goes to my employers. They have approached accessibility as a top priority. Majority of the staff here has experienced working with the differently-abled so they know exactly what works and what doesn’t.”

New Spaces: Taking the Mill by Storm

Sana

Sana has recently joined our denim mill’s Inspection department. She is one of the few women to take this brave step in a society where working in a denim mill is rare for women.

“My economic empowerment lies in my ability to choose whether to work, how much to work, and how to spend or save my income. There has always been a stigma attached to employment at the mill side, that it poses risks which may restrict women empowerment. However, being recruited at Artistic Milliners’ mill factory has opened new doors for me. Working here was my first step towards financial independence and a path out of poverty.

Women not only represent the majority of low-skilled, low-wage workers, but they also face unsupportive norms and power dynamics that place them at a disadvantage when working to change their situations. My family was worried when I made the decision to work in a mill.

I don’t blame them because longer work shifts and incidents of labor rights violations within denim mills is what we commonly hear about. While both men and women are affected by these challenges, women workers tend to be more vulnerable to these risks.

On the contrary, my experience of working here has been comfortable and encouraging. The company has a multifaceted approach to woman empowerment. AM has invested in the work culture to support my safety, freedom from violence, and the opportunity to be heard at work. I’m getting along well with my coworkers and I enjoy doing my work here under the guidance of my supervisor. Artistic Milliners’ empowerment approach does not just end with hiring. They are also teaching me new skills which can help me grow in my personal and professional life. I feel lucky and honored to be a part of an organization that strives to change gender dynamics.”

Beyond the Uncomfortable Silhouette: Niaz Bano has won her Independence

Niaz

“There was a time I was scared to look at my own face in the mirror. It has been 14 years since it happened yet I still remember vividly. In a heated argument, my partner threw acid on my face. For a moment, I didn’t realize what had just happened – everything was a blur. When I opened my eyes, I found out I had sustained 3rd degree burns from the acid attack. My face was completely disfigured. The burns were so severe that I had to undergo treatment for an entire year. I remember lying in the hospital bed wishing I don’t survive. I did not have the courage to face the world.

My misery only intensified after I left the hospital. Everywhere I went, people looked at me with horror and pity. I used to hide my face at home, eating my meals all alone. Years later, I was approached by DepilexSmileagain Foundation. They promised to get my face surgery done free of cost- it was my first ray of light in a long time. After multiple surgeries and therapy, I finally started gaining some confidence.  I slowly started accepting myself, and with much effort loving myself again.

I wanted to do something meaningful, I wanted to stand on my own feet. DepilexSmileagainSmileagain Foundation told me that Artistic Milliners will give me that opportunity. I am now working among thousands of people as a factory helper. The people here are more than my colleagues; they are my second family. The warmth I feel in every service, every gesture and every smile, makes me feel at home. I never thought society would accept me back with such open arms and yet, here I am. It’s almost as if I got a second lease on life. I am going to make the most of it.”

This is a beautiful human interest story and we hope it will encourage many more companies out there to take this as an example and adapt Artistic Milliner’s solidarity as their own as well.

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