#MeToo: garment workers speak up

This is the story of a 46-year old female worker from a garment factory in Tirupur, India.

‘When the company announced that an anti-harassment committee would be formed, I stood for election. The main reason is that I feel harassed at home, and strongly feel that the company should be a safe place. I live alone with my husband, since our only daughter is married. He is a drunkard, who does not work and keeps asking me for money. We have a debt of over 1400 euros.

Trying to forget it
I have to do everything at home. I cook before I leave for work in the morning. When I reach home at 8pm, I fetch water from the public taps, I cook again, I clean and do the laundry. I sleep at around midnight, but often I am not able to sleep, because my husband keeps harassing me.

There are many female workers in a similar home situation. When we are at work, we all want to leave our home problems outside. We keep busy and keep talking about other things to forget about it. What happens outside, is a shame.

Girls cannot go out
When we were growing up, and some boys or men were sitting on the street, we were told to cross the road to avoid them. We would not go where the boys were playing. Girls cannot go out, but they are sometimes shown to dozens of men to find a groom. It makes them feel bad.

Our committee keeps meeting and keeps discussing these issues. In the FWF training, we have learnt that we can even work against vulgar language and teasing. I want to ensure that what we learn here, will be implemented outside the factory too. It has to be done, and it can be done.’

In wake of the #MeToo campaign more and more people are coming forward to share their stories of sexual assault and/or harassment, including garment workers. A disturbingly high percentage of garment workers report verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment, as well as forced labour, assault and rape.

This shortened story is part of a FWF publication on the work FWF does to prevent and reduce gender-based violence in garment factories. The full publication will be available  during the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. Keep an eye on our website. 

Related programmes