Social Venture HATCH Co-Working Factory Empowers Local Women By Reviving ‘Made In Hong Kong’ Culture
Hong Kong social venture, HATCH, is a co-working factory that seeks to lift women out of poverty through artisanal and manufacturing work that was once embedded in the city’s history as an industrial centre. Currently, four local brands are sharing the co-working space to revive a “Made In Hong Kong” tradition and lift underprivileged women in the city out of poverty through providing training and career opportunities.
Located in Kwai Chung, HATCH co-working factory allows women from local grassroots families in Hong Kong to find decent work manufacturing products from bed sheets to artisanal soaps. HATCH was founded by Francis Ngai, whose goal was to create a space that could revitalise Hong Kong’s tradition of handicrafts and manufacturing work, while also providing opportunities to empower women and lift them out of poverty. Through employing women as “HATCH Talents”, the venture represents a social ladder for women in Hong Kong, who experience dual challenges when it comes to gendered injustice in a society rife with class-based inequality.
Importantly, HATCH gives women the flexibility for family-friendly working arrangements. Women do not only face the difficulties of a gender pay gap in many types of work, but are also vulnerable to workplace practices that do not take into account the other roles that women are socially expected to take up at home. HATCH accommodates women who choose to bring young children to work through its children’s playroom, equipped with toys and in-house parental support and child specialists.
Speaking to the SCMP, founder Francis Ngai said: “We want to use a job to empower these people, but what we really want to create is an exit for poverty until they can really stand on their own.”
Currently, there are 4 local Hong Kong brands who are members of the co-working factory. These include artisanal soap company Chingmama Handmade Workshop, bedding company Airland, social enterprise Goods Co-Share making affordable household products for under-resourced communities, and upcycled fashion business Heritage Refashioned.
Hong Kong is a city where the gap between the rich and poor is widening. Asia, more broadly, is lagging behind in progress towards achieving the globally agreed United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In fact, parts of the region is backtracking in gender equality. Multiple analyses have shown how elevating the position and contributions of women as decision-makers, stakeholders, caretakers and active career builders can create positive cascading effects on all other global goals – including climate change.
With this data in mind, HATCH offers a much-needed social initiative in the city that can impact women and the wider community. On the one hand, it can directly change women’s lives for the better. HATCH Talent worker Chen Huixiang, for instance, told SCMP that before, “we could barely scrape by…[and] now we can afford tutoring classes for my daughter”. But not only can it empower local women and offer them a chance at financial freedom, it can also help restart the ‘Made in Hong Kong’ and rejuvenate the city’s local artisan culture.
Lead image courtesy of Social Ventures Hong Kong.