Introducing the stories of women garment workers

The clothes we buy connect us to the millions of garment workers around the world – a thread that resembles the garment industry’s global assembly line, which mostly employs (young) women. The industry provides vital work that has helped these women improve their own and their families’ standard of living.  The economic growth, however, has not been equal. Women also face job discrimination, sexual harassment, assault, and are less likely than men to be promoted to higher positions. The industry has the ability to support women’s empowerment and thus improve the lives of millions in garment-producing countries, such as Bangladesh and India.  We want to show you how.

Plan International and Fair Wear have a vision: an industry in which garment workers have decent work, in safe conditions, that is adequately paid.  Gender equality is a key component in turning this vision into reality. We work to encourage gender equality and the economic inclusion of girls and women and to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence. We identify opportunities and barriers to improving the working conditions of women in the garment industry. We do this by supporting brands in realising responsible business practices and by empowering women with the knowledge and education to get them their seat at the negotiating table.

Today, in light of International Women’s Day, we are launching this story-telling project, following the global supply chain from Bangladesh to the Netherlands. Bangladesh is world’s second largest garment producing country. In the Netherlands, consumers buy on average46 new items per year, resulting in about 175 items in a person’s closet. Of this, nearly 30 percent is never worn.

Through this project, we will introduce you to women workers, trade unionists, representatives of Plan and Fair Wear working in Bangladesh, worldwide experts working on legislation that protect and empower women workers and pioneering European brands that prioritise gender equality as a key investment. 

Meet Esmotara, who works in a sewing factory and has taken a stand for women garment workers. Get to know Nazma Akter, who started in a garment factory at age 11, and is now the executive director of Awaj Foundation, an organisation that fights for better working conditions. And Schijvens, a brand who is committed to ensuring gender equality in their supply chain.

These stories show how everyone along the garment supply chain has a role to play in achieving gender equality in the garment industry, from consumers and brands in here in Europe to garment workers across the globe. We know there is a better way to make clothes. Hopefully, these stories will inspire you to make conscious choices in the future! Together, we can make clothing fair for all.

Photos: b.a.sujaN / Plan International / Map Photo Agency, Dhaka, BD