The GARROBO Project

The GARROBO Project: Garrobo is good. for you...for the society...for the environment.

El SalvadorSan Juan Opico, El Salvador
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The GARROBO project offers a two-year job and life-skill training program to socially/financially empower single teen mothers and at-risk young women. It uses the sponsor factory's infrastructure, technical/administrative resources to sustain it, but needs to grow and scale to create more impact.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the women who have been empowered at GARROBO are able to hold permanent jobs or be established on their own, would they be able to alleviate social problems in their families and/or their communities?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

It is trying to address how to meaningfully empower single teen moms and at-risk young women. Vulnerable young girls drop out of school and many become involved with gang members either for “easy” money or social acceptance. Many become single mothers. They have no skills to become employable and their children become prey to violent gangs. It's a vicious cycle that needs to stop.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We have developed a two-year curriculum consisting of 80 percent practical/20 percent theoretical training including life skills. The program is in a SAFE environment where they learn basic and advanced (manual/industrial) sewing techniques/operations to enable them to put together garments and work on a number of non-clothing projects. There is a trial period of 4 hours daily Mon-Fri, with pay. Followed by an apprenticeship contract with health insurance and pension plan, 6 hours daily Mon-Fri, renewable yearly - if/when they pass the trial. When they turn 18 years old or when done with the training, they have 3 options: 1. continue learning at the project 2. choose to work at the TexOps factory 3. work with another company


El Salvador's Marca Positiva 2014 for community service awarded by Fundemas
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

She was over fifteen and had finished 6th grade, but didn’t want to go back to school. She was scared, gaunt and listless. Her clothes torn at some places. She always came late to the factory and fell asleep on the sewing machine table. Her son was almost a year old; she was a rape victim. We first trained her to operate basic industrial sewing machines. Once she was competent, she moved on to learn how to operate the more complicated machines. Today she can operate competently all the different machines in the GARROBO workshop / do nearly all of the operations needed to put together different types of garments. When she turned 18 last year, she chose to stay with the project and is part of the growing future of the GARROBO module.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

To date, 48 young women between the ages of 14 to 23 have joined the program: 27 single teen moms + 21 at-risk young women. 13 found full employment as operators: three are with the project, eleven are in Texops production and two have found employment at other factories. Twenty one left for various reasons (mostly unwillingness to learn and/or family problems). We had to let six go due to serious delinquent behavior. We need a bigger space, more machines, our own trainer, additional personnel to man an expanded program including commercial expansion for further learning opportunities as well as psychological help. As we expand, we’ll be able to gather more data, knowledge and experience to fine tune the programs. We hope to increase our yearly intake of trainees and include programs that help to decrease the dropout rate and create greater quantitative and qualitative impact.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Moving forward we'll partner with local/regional/international educational institutions to expand the training program offering accredited programs to paying students. The students get to know the factory working conditions and the workers. This can also serve as a cultural exchange program. Partnering with factories (locally and abroad) to establish Garrobo Affiliates. Mentorship Program: We hope to find local/international mentors for the trainees, paying students and for the community. Expand commercial activities including online and offline commerce sales of Garrobo-branded products.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

If we remain a social project closely connected with Textiles Opico, it will be limited because of too many complicated governmental restrictions attached to companies operating within the duty-free zones. We are therefore applying to become a registered NGO to be more independent and flexible in pursuing funding possibilities and profitable activities to grow and scale our programs and business plan.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

I am not aware of any organization or institution working with garment factories in El Salvador with the same or similar program GARROBO offers. Put another way, there are NO garment factories who have initiated a social project with a far-reaching training program. The GARROBO project is different because of its holistic and multi-pronged approach. The concentrated two-year practical and life-skill training includes financial help to trainees, provision of free learning materials, tools and equipment, team-building program, psychological and/or spiritual help, if and when needed.

Founding Story

The idea of adding value to leftover and excess mass production materials and creating jobs for underserved and poorly-educated girls "traveled" quite a while. It was conceived in India in 1999, gestated in Spain and Cambodia and finally born in El Salvador in 2010. Sitara lived with her destitute family in an underserved community in New Delhi. She applied to work in a children's clothes factory nearby and was hired as an all-round factory helper. She was poorly educated but continued to study after work. She became a trusted employee, was promoted, rose to challenges that crossed her way, and became one of the company’s best merchandisers. She was empowered. She is my inspiration.


Major Funder: Textiles Opico S.A. de C.V., a sportswear manufacturer, with the blessings of its owner and CEO, Mr. David Ha. (From concept implementation and fine tuning in June 2010 - to pilot stage in June 2012 when we took in the first trainees - up to the present time.) Project Co-ordinator: Milagros (Jiji) Rentsch-Tizon – also Chief Merchandiser, Sales and Marketing, Social Media Person, Product Development and Design, Liaison Person, Programs and Curriculum, and will-do-all person for whatever else needs to be done. GARROBO has the Textiles Opico (TexOps) production and HR teams as well as the IT guy behind it providing the following support: 1. Technical expertise (patternmaking, sewing training, machine/tools/equipment repairs and adjustments, graphic design, IT) 2. Administrative Work (recruitment, evaluation and interview of trainees, accounts, workshop security and maintenance, compliance, team-building workshops, etc.) 3. IT Admin does all my network and other computer setup/maintenance
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Raw Materials, Manufacturing, Consumption.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]


Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Consumers, Corporations, Factory Workers, Factory Owners, Retailers - Department Store, Trading Companies, Women, Youth.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Access to Essential Services (i.e. Healthcare and Education), Access to Finance, Access to Social Protection Services (i.e. Insurance, Pension, etc.), Conscious Consumerism, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Anti-forced Labor or Anti-Human Trafficking, Recycling or Circular Economy, Physical Working Conditions.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Advocacy, Capacity Building, Enforcement, Training.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Hidden from View: Conditions in Forests, Farms, and Factories are Only Visible to a Select Few, A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders, Disrupt Business as Usual: Target Key Players Who Can Influence the Bottom Line, Transform the Chain into a Web: Link Unlikely Sectors that Open New Pathways to Sustainability.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?


If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

Community development, Corporate social responsibility, Education, Economic development, Environment, Green consumerism, Human trafficking, Poverty alleviation, Recycling, Youth development, Youth leadership.

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?

The project was partly conceived as a fully-committed program for factories not just to pay lip service to CSR compliance.

Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Sharing our blessings in action with people around us is a core part of the project's practical life-skill training.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

Our partnership with private businesses create awareness and opportunities to give back to the community in a meaningful way.