How is Bik Bok securing rights for women in the textile industry?


Bik Bok is part of Varner, a family-owned Norwegian company. Varner is aiming to assist with effective development by working with requirements and expectations in risk areas related to discrimination and women’s rights. This will allow production and trade to take place responsibly – for women as well.

“The starting point for women’s rights in the countries in which we manufacture our clothing varies, because the cultural starting point and developments in respect of gender equality differ,” says Vegard Neverlien, Varner’s Global CSR Manager.


The areas that he works with include corporate social responsibility and women’s rights in Varner production countries. Varner is working in cooperation with selected partners and organisations to address the risk areas and prevent discrimination in markets with which we work.


TO BE FOLLOWED UP: Varner is focusing on following up women at the factories, with special measures being implemented in Bangladesh. Photo: Katrine Karlsen, Ethical Trade Norway.


Equal rights

Varner is currently working with markets where there are improvement to be made, so it’s important to understand what the genuine challenges are. Equal rights for women is one major focus area:

“Varner guidelines focus on not treating anyone differently in the workplace because of their gender, religion or ethnicity,” says Vegard.

“We work with different cultural starting points, so it’s important to be fully aware of the context we’re working with, not just to launch a programme that might not even work.”


PARTNER FACTORY: The Yunusco Group factory in Bangladesh specialises in lingerie and employs lots of women. Photo: Jibon Mridha, Varner CSR Specialist, Bangladesh 


Specific gender equality measures

Women in the textile industry are at risk of sexual harassment and violence, lower positions, lower pay and shorter contracts, to name but a few examples. That is why Varner is working in partnership with various organisations working to promote women’s interests in the textile industry, including Social Awareness and Voluntary Education (SAVE) in India, the ILO in Turkey and the Joint Ethical Trading Initiative (JETI) in Bangladesh. 

“Bangladesh, Turkey and South India are some of the countries where we’ve seen more of a need for specific measures as regards gender equality in the workplace. A lot of women work in factories in these countries, and there are barriers to their development in the workplace,” states Vegard.

“Opportunities for women to rise through the ranks may be limited, and their gender-specific needs aren’t necessarily considered,” he continues. “When we identify these barriers at the factories, we want to help bring about positive development and change together with our partner organisations.”



ACTIONS AND FOLLOW-UP: Varner works in partnership with organisations to prevent discrimination and exploitation of women in the industry. Turkey is one of the particularly vulnerable markets requiring special measures.  Photo: Chessa Nilsen, Global Production Manager, Varner

In Turkey, Varner is working in partnership with organisations to provide a programme for raising awareness among employees and management at the factories.

“We’ve seen differences between men and women when it comes to working conditions in Turkey, and we try to focus on this by running courses on gender-based violence, discrimination, pay, working conditions and everyone’s right and access to a career path,” states Vegard. 


Risk areas for female workers in the textile mill sector

We won’t necessarily work in sequence through the supply chain when it’s clear to us that there’s a major risk in respect of discrimination. Instead, we’d rather go directly to the link where that risk may be most acute. That is why Varner has committed to go on working with prevention and training in the risk areas in South India, where young women have frequently been forced to endure disgraceful working conditions in the textile mill sector.

“The textile mill sector is three links down the supply chain, which is an area that Varner is constantly aiming to access”, says Vegard. “We aim directly for this link in the supply chain and emphasise the challenges faced there.

“In this respect, the challenges relate to exploitation of women in the workplace, due in part to the cultural importance of marriage,” he continues. “Girls often have to help earn their own traditional dowry, so they’re forced to leave school early and are sent to factories to work.”

Work done by under-age girls is strictly prohibited by Varner, and a programme to prevent this was launched a few years ago in partnership with Varner, SAVE and two British companies – Next and The Very Group.

Find out more about how we make sure people have good working conditions at the factories.



Schools funded by Bik Bok

Bik Bok launched a partnership with Plan International in 2011, supporting their global “Because I am a Girl” initiative, which aims to end gender discrimination, promote the rights of girls and lift millions of girls – and everyone around them – out of poverty.

Bik Bok launched its very own “Girls’ Right to Education” initiative in 2014 in partnership with Plan International with a view to addressing the barriers that prevent girls from completing their education. The schools project ran in Vietnam for three consecutive years from 2014, and later in Bangladesh over three years from 2018. These initiatives helped to raise NOK 3 million, which was spent on improving the lives of almost 1200 children.


Find out more about the projects implemented in partnership with Plan International.


Would you like to know more about Varner’s work with clothing production, sustainability and the environment? The Varner Sustainability Report 2022, the Varner Sustainability Report 2021 and the Varner Sustainability Report 2020 you will find everything you need to know, and a bit more.

You can also send an email directly to [email protected] if there’s anything else you’d like to know about how we work with sustainability.

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