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Do you know who makes your clothes? Garment production has created paid employment for many women, mostly in Asian countries, where social norms had traditionally restricted women to the home. There are an estimated 60 million workers are involved in spinning, weaving and stitching. Of these, approximately 75% are women.
The garment industry is an important step for many women into paid employment, but it is also an industry with high levels of exploitation. Women workers in particular are vulnerable and face significant challenges. Due to societal views on ‘women’s work’ and the power imbalance between the mostly male managers and the young, often migrant female workforce, women workers rarely move up from the lowest paid, low power positions. With little bargaining power—and low representation in unions—they are vulnerable to poor labour conditions. They often work excessive hours for very low wages. Women are also more vulnerable to sexual harassment and violence.
Moving towards a gender-equal world is critical for women to be secure in decent work. We need effective policies and provisions that put the burden of care on employers and governments to prevent and address violence and harassment against women at work. To achieve this, we need comprehensive social dialogue, so that workers can negotiate for better working conditions.
Gender equality is not only a critical moral and social issue; it is also a vital for a sustainable global economy. That is why this International Women’s Day we are joining the global campaign to bring awareness to gender equality. Over the next week, we are highlighting the women that work in and for the garment industry, bringing together passionate people from trade unions, garment factories and civil society organisations from all across the world who each work to realise a safe and equal workplace for women.
Follow our International Women’s Day 2020 #EachForEqual campaign on social media over the next week and support us in celebrating female garment workers, as well as all of those that work tirelessly to improve the lives and working conditions of the women that make our clothes.