New ILO publication refers to Fair Wear as a promising model

International Labour Organization (ILO) has released a new report on ‘Promising practices, experiences and lessons learned in eliminating gender inequality in the garment sector in Asia’, incorporating contributions from Better Work, BSR, CARE International and Fair Wear.

The report showcases the findings from the received submissions and the purpose of the report is to increase knowledge of and showcase insights on industry-relevant policies, programmes and initiatives that have been successful in closing critical gender gaps. It seeks to contribute toward a shared knowledge base of “what works” in the garment sector and to identify key actions towards addressing gender gaps in the garment sector in Asia. Fair Wear is pleased to have our best practices and learnings taken on board and referred to as a model.

Below is an overview of our contributions, which can also be found throughout the report:

Findings on enabling factors

  • Multi-stakeholder social dialogue is critical success– page 7 & Legislation and shared framework are critical – page 9 (FW – 01)

Fair Wear is seen as a model having ‘brought together diverse stakeholders to establish shared priorities and actions towards gender equality by organizing a working group to draft a national law on sexual harassment in the workplace’. It refers to the fact that after the Bangladeshi Government issued the Guidelines on Sexual Harassment in 2009, no further action was taken to draft the law. Fair Wear ensured that action on the Guidelines was taken and that lead to consultations and work with several stakeholders to draft a law. ‘Throughout the drafting process, the group consulted with civil society organizations, Members of Parliament, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, educational institutions, the ILO and local and international trade unions in order to ensure widespread support and to improve awareness of the need for a law to prevent sexual harassment in the world of work’. This joint collaboration brought to the submission of the draft law to the Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and to the Minister of Labour and Employment for their approval in 2018.

Thanks to its active role in supporting national legislation against sexual harassment at the workplace, Fair Wear ‘reported that legislation in India and the High Court directive in Bangladesh on the enactment of workplace anti-harassment committees have provided increased credibility and support for implementing anti-harassment trainings, compared to other countries where such legal requirements do not exist’.

  • Capacity building must be comprehensive and go beyond women on the factory floor – page 8 (FW – 03)

Fair Wear WEPVH (on violence and harassment) is seen as a transformative workplace education programme: while engaging women working at the factory level, ‘Fair Wear found that actively including senior management in the implementation of the initiative significantly increased ownership of and commitment to improving programme outcomes, and also decreased the likelihood of participants dropping out of the programme. Fair Wear also found that including floor managers was critical to ensuring that trainings did not interfere with production plans and targets, or that when trainings did interfere, they could be re-scheduled or participation could be negotiated’. Fair Wear WEPVH programme has proved its effectiveness as it requires commitment, cooperation and active participation from all levels of the factory organisation, including CEOs,  managers, supervisors, workers, and brands.

Key challenges

  • The perception of turnover and actual turnover are obstacles – page 11 (FW – 03)

High turnover – a prevalent phenomenon in the garment industry – flags poor working conditions (including, among others, low wages, overtime, and the burden of unpaid care duties).

According to Fair Wear findings, trainings decrease turnover at the factory level. Fair Wear’s ‘training focused on establishing workplace complaints committees in India and Bangladesh among approximately 6,600 workers (19,000 including those who then received peer-to-peer trainings) and 3,233 supervisors led to increased satisfaction among workers, decreased employee turnover and a reduction in the number of legal proceedings among 93 factories’. At the same time, Fair Wear found that factories were reluctant or even resistant to train migrant workers because they believe that migrant workers would not stay for a long time in the same factory (these workers often experience the poorest working conditions).

On page 17 you can find the annexe with the 3 case studies from Fair Wear:

Case study no.Submitting organisationName of submission
FW 01Fair WearGender network platforms in Bangladesh and Indonesia: collective action to address gender equality in the garment sector
FW 02Fair WearCARE’s Interventions to Build Women’s Voice in the Garment Supply Chain in Asia
FW 03Fair WearFair Wear Workplace Education Programme on violence and harassment prevention as a means to address gender inequality in garment factories