Student Interview: SA8000 Basic Auditor Training Course

Meet Student, Maria Sheikh, from the Muslim Women's Resource Center
Maria Sheikh was a participant in the SA8000 Basic Course that took place in New York City on Monday, June 15 to Friday, June 19. She traveled to the course from Chicago, where she works with the Muslim Women's Resource Center (MWRC). MWRC provides a variety of services to its community, including integrating recent immigrants into American life, assisting individuals with preparation for citizenship, facilitating children's programs, and homecare for the elderly.
Maria first became interested in attending the training because her brother had attended an SAI training and recommended that Maria experience one as well. Additionally, Maria had noticed a lack of a social auditing presence in Chicago and was interested in bringing some of her knowledge back to the area. She already fostered an interest in many of the topics addressed by SA8000 and frequently reads human rights-related articles. 
Upon arriving at the course, Maria was surprised by a few things. She had expected the course to be very difficult, when in fact, it was easier to understand than she had anticipated. Something else which surprised her was learning that social auditing requires a great deal of subjective decision-making. As Maria came to understand, there are many more "grey areas" in this field than one might expect and ultimately, it is the job of the social auditor to make many difficult decisions. Although social auditors can refer to the standards against which they are evaluating a facility, assessing a factory is about more than completing a checklist; it requires a great deal of critical thinking.
One of the most memorable parts of the course for Maria was when she heard a story about an auditor who was held in a factory for four hours due to issuing a non-conformance, as well as another auditor who was threatened with a gun. This increased her respect for social auditors and illuminated to her how companies must realize that audits are meant to help them, not to hurt them.
Since completing the course, Maria's interest in and knowledge of social auditing has strengthened. Additionally, she intends to bring some of the knowledge she gained from the course back to her community in Chicago. In Illinois, Right to Work laws, which concern collective bargaining, are becoming increasingly prevalent. Thus, she will be able to take the information she has learned concerning labor rights to her community, where such conversations are beginning to occur on a regular basis. 
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