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Being a woman in the garment industry comes with a unique set of challenges. At Fair Wear, we are in a unique position to understand these challenges as our work puts us into direct communication with garment workers in factories around the world.
Through our work, we’ve found that while women make up the vast majority of garment workers, they are typically poorly represented in positions of authority such as management or supervisor roles. On average, we see that they are also paid less than their male counterparts and many workers also report suffering daily discrimination, harassment and violence because of their gender.
In 2012, we established the Fair Wear Violence and Harassment Prevention Programme in India and Bangladesh as a part of our Workplace Education Programme. The initiative was set up to educate both member brands and garment factory workers and management on these topics. In a baseline survey of 658 women from 35 factories in Bangladesh, Fair Wear found that of the women interviewed, 75% said that regular verbal abuse occurred in their factory, most of which was sexually explicit, while 23% of women reported physical abuse in their factory. These numbers were repeated in other countries we looked at too. In a 2016 study in Cambodia, nearly one in three workers reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, and in Uganda, a survey carried out in over 2,910 organisations showed that 90% of women had been sexually harassed by their male superiors .
One supplier of a Fair Wear member brand in India put it into context: ‘Factories are representative of the wider society, and harassment against women is common in society. No matter how strong your policies are, you cannot escape it. It is important to accept that violence and harassment are a problem at your factory.’ Becoming aware of these issues makes it possible to identify gender-specific risks and find ways to address them. Our Code of Labour Practices supports this mission and outlines how we can come together to make workplaces safe for people of all genders.