In a bid to highlight the contribution of garment factory workers specially the female workers towards the improvement of national economy as well as to attract more employees and new investors to the apparel sector, the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) has begun implementing a countrywide image building campaign from February 4.
Addressing a press briefing in Colombo on Wednesday, JAAF Secretary General M.P.T. Cooray said that the main aim of the campaign is to change the bad image of female apparel workers created through adverse publicity given to few isolated incidents involving some factory girls in free trade zones. He said that still the general public has a bad impression about the apparel sector workforce, which largely comprises of females, commonly called as 'Juki girls or garments girls'. Under these circumstances, Sri Lankan girls are reluctant to join the industry creating a dearth of trained employees in the apparel sector and there are about 15,000 job vacancies in garment factories at Free Trade Zones at present, he added.
The 55-million rupee campaign that will support the industry target of reaching US$5 billion in export earnings by 2015, will be conducted under the auspices of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. A regional road show organized under this campaign for an islandwide awareness on the contribution made by apparel factory workers to national economy over the past 30 years and recruitment drive.
The year-long campaign, titled 'Viru Diyani,' will continue in 2012 as well and held in all nine provinces of the country to showcase the apparel industry's contributions to the regions and create awareness about the opportunities and potential for greater regional participation in the industry's future.
A highlight of the campaign will be the collective stitching of the national flag by apparel factories located in the different provinces of the country, representing regional unity and collective strength. This national flag will be presented to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on completion in time for the 2012 Independence Day celebration, Local Image Building Sub-Committee Chairman Channa Palansuriya, said.
The apparel industry recorded an export income growth of 3.7% from January to November of 2010 with exports totalling US$ 3.038 billion compared to US$2.930 billion during the same period in 2009 and the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) anticipates that the year will end with 4% growth. Industry and Commerce Ministry Additional Secretary H M R B Herath said that a sum of Rs.40 million allocated from the consolidated fund per year was spent to promote the local apparel industry in the past and this money will be diverted to the new image building campaign this year.
He revealed that many closed down garment factories in the country have also been taken over by major garment factories in the country and work is in full capacity now. The industry has managed to create around 400,000 employment in the various manufacturing processes in the apparel industry.