SELECT Sport sells around 3 million balls every year. Around 90% of these hand-stitched balls are produced in the Sialkot area of Pakistan by Anwar Khawaja Industries (AKI). SELECT is one of many companies whose production is carried out here, where 70% of the hand-stitched balls in the world are made.
The majority of the many thousands of people who stitch balls in Sialkot do not work directly for the ball companies, but are part of a wide network of subcontractors and their subcontractors. These workers do not receive a fixed wage, but are paid for each ball they make.
SELECT’s approach to Corporate Social Responsibility
Like other companies, SELECT pays the market price for the stitching of their balls in Pakistan. But it is our conviction that our responsibility goes further than this. For those people who stitch SELECT balls in Pakistan, it is our aim to meet their basic needs.
These needs include medical assistance and medication for the whole family. All children are given the opportunity to have an education. Education is the key to improving living standards for future generations. This objective also includes abolishing child labour, something which SELECT and AKI do not wish to make use of.
Visits the families on a regular basis
To ensure that these objectives are achieved, SELECT and AKI have produced an assistance programme for their workers known as SAHEP (SELECT Anwar Khawaja Industries Health & Education Program). SAHEP’s services include providing free comprehensive medical assistance and medication for all the members of workers’ families, incentives to keep children at school and direct schooling for children who cannot attend general school.
SAHEP staff in Pakistan, under the management of Mrs. Anita Khawaja, keep accurate records on all of SELECT/AKI’s workers and their children, visiting the families on a regular basis. This ensures that SAHEP’s services benefit the right people and that each family's needs are being met.
SAHEP education programme
“We are very grateful to the SAHEP programme which meets our needs and is adapted to the taboos we have here. My sister Shabana and I would not have learnt to read and write if the programme had not existed", says Naseem, a SAHEP pupil.
In order to encourage families to educate their children instead of sending them out to work, SAHEP gives the family a sum of money for each child going to school. This money covers the cost of school books, a pair of shoes, a uniform and a sweater, things that children need to be able to attend the local primary school. Teenagers and adults who continue beyond basic schooling also receive financial support.
SAHEP also provides local education for children who cannot go to general school because they have already been taken out of the school, they are disabled or for other reasons. The programme covers the expenses for our teachers who visit small groups of pupils six days a week for two hours at a time, provides teachers with motor bikes and basic teaching resources and gives pupils school books and other materials in a hard-wearing metal box. We also arrange special summer courses and afternoon lessons, which includes extra tuition for children who need help with their schoolwork in the state school.
The SAHEP health programme
There is very little social welfare provision in Pakistan, which means that a serious illness can easily wipe out a family’s finances. As a result, SAHEP was adapted to include free medication and medical assistance for all workers and their family members. The SAHEP families are given a medical card and a list of local hospitals, doctors and specialists included in the programme. The bills are sent directly to SAHEP’s office. Around 3,500 people now have a SAHEP medical card.
SAHEP also hires a mobile healthcare team to provide health care locally. This includes a nurse, midwife and a trainer, and sometimes a specialist. The healthcare team goes out to the villages once a week and carries out health checks, baby checks and vaccinations, provides information on family planning, nutrition and hygiene and distributes medicines.
The issue of child labour
Accusations of child labour have been made against several Sialkot ball manufacturers over the past few years. In July 1995 a Norwegian TV news crew made a documentary in Pakistan in which SELECT was accused of using child labour to stitch its balls. This claim was false, and after SELECT had taken legal proceedings, the TV company was given a fine and issued a public retraction. Although SELECT’s reputation received, quite unfairly, a few knocks due to this documentary, the programme had nonetheless one positive effect: SELECT gave the money from the TV station to the SAHEP programme.
While SELECT clearly subscribes to the objective of abolishing child labour. SELECT and AKI did protest however against the need for workers to work at large central stitching premises. Based on our experience with SAHEP, we were familiar with the major problems and a rule like this would have an impact on around 56% (according to a SAHEP analysis) of all workers, who are women.
After discussions between Anita Khawaja, SAHEP’s managing director, ILO and Save the Children, we were assured that workers in Sialkot could assemble in smaller stitching centres spread over a larger area, therefore in their local villages. Although the verification costs will be higher, which is borne by the ball manufacturers, we believe that this is a major benefit for female workers.
Apart from removing the incentives towards child labour, SELECT and AKI are also protecting themselves against child labour in other ways. AKI’s subcontractors have signed an obligation not to use child labour on the proviso that they will be dismissed if they breach this obligation. AKI’s monitors, who were previously employed to inspect the quality of the stitching at the centres, now also need to keep a close check to see that child labour is not being used.
SELECT sees SAHEP as an integral part of its corporate culture and social responsibility. We also believe that the programme helps us to maintain the high level of quality as it promotes the workers’ loyalty to SELECT and AKI. For all these reasons, SELECT and AKI will continue to develop and expand the SAHEP programme.