One year ago, participants from six garment producing countries—Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Vietnam—gathered in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam to address the wide-spread problem of gender-based violence in the garment industry. The participants represented non-governmental organisations, trade unions, private sector companies and government. The event was the first of its kind in Asia. The Forum was organised by Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), in collaboration with the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation (ITCILO) and Dutch trade unions CNV Internationaal and Mondiaal FNV, FWF’s partners in the Strategic Partnership for Garment Supply Chain Transformation.
Over the course of three days, the Gender Forum participants gained knowledge and shared their experiences of gender-based violence in the world of work. Participatory activities and creative exercises allowed the participants to examine the challenges that workers, especially women, face in the garment industry and devise solutions for change. ‘Working together’ was a principal theme. While there are many underlying causes of violence and harassment in the workplace, the Gender Forum’s goal was to not only discuss its reality, but to create country-specific action plans where each stakeholder identified his or her role in working together to prevent and address gender-based violence in their country.
One year on
The Fair Wear Foundation Gender Forum Publication details the results of each individual country plan for the regions in which FWF is active, and what has been achieved in the past year. Here’s a snapshot of the actions:
Among the many steps taken in Bangladesh, a working committee known as the Gender Platform was established. This platform enabled us to submit a draft law on the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace to the relevant ministries.
Stakeholders from Myanmar travelled to India where they were introduced to the country’s legislative framework on sexual harassment and its application in garment factories.
In Vietnam, we launched participatory research on the factors that lead to gender-based violence in garment factories.
An ongoing issue
The vast majority of workers employed in the garment sector are women, many of whom have been victims of gender-based violence both at home and in the workplace. Female garment workers have reported verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment. Participants of the Gender Forum stressed that abuse and violence can take many forms on the factory floor. Examples given at the Gender Forum included yelling at workers and bullying them, forcing them to work long hours and limiting their freedom of movement or even preventing them from using the toilet. Moreover, female workers often risk violence and harassment when returning home from work late at night.
Download the publication here to learn more about tackling gender-based violence in the garment industry.