Tadashi Yanai and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

TOKYO — Fast Retailing has entered into a partnership with UN Women, with the aim of championing women’s rights and empowerment in the global apparel industry.

The agreement includes an investment from the Uniqlo parent company of $1.6 million over two years, in order to jointly implement a program for female workers in apparel factories across Asia, where most of the company’s products are made. This is the first formal alliance between UN Women and a clothing company based in Asia.

Fast Retailing is committed to ensure that all women who are main players in our business can fully demonstrate their abilities. This is essential for the sustainable growth of the entire supply chain, as well as to continue to offer products that meet customer expectations,” Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Fast Retailing, said in a statement. “Through our joint project with UN Women, we aim to create an enabling environment for all women in our business and those in our company to play an active role in society.”

The partnership will focus on three areas: a leadership training program, providing opportunities for female workers to develop new skills; raising awareness of the importance of gender equality, and women’s empowerment among men in decision-making positions. In its first year, the project will target partner factories in Bangladesh, China and Vietnam, and will eventually be developed to provide specialized training for female workers in 200 partner factories across the three countries.

“Women comprise the majority of workers in the garment sector, but too often they are segregated into lower paying jobs that offer little chance for advancement. This new partnership with Fast Retailing is a chance to change that,” said UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “By focusing on women’s economic empowerment and providing women workers with access to specialized training and capacity-building, we are together taking a critical step to galvanize change in the garment industry.”