Roughly 55 million women currently work in textile factories, predominantly in South East Asia. Most are young, unmarried, and with little education. They are often born in rural areas, and migrate to cities to find work. The garment industry gives them the means to support their families back home. But these employment opportunities are generally open to them because their labour is often inexpensive. Read more
Fair Wear Foundation has been actively assessing the role of gender in the garment industry. This work has highlighted key areas where gender-based issues regularly arise.
Female workers continue to fill the vast majority of low-skilled, low-wage positions in garment factories. It is rare to see women represented in the medium and top paid production positions, which are dominated by their male colleagues. Concerns about wage inequality is not only an issue in the garment industry; according to the International Labour Organisation, on average, women’s hourly wages are less then mens in 89% of countries around the world.
However, the stakes are particularly high for female garment workers considering that most factories are currently unable to pay workers a living wage. Low-wage women workers will face a greater struggle in making ends meet, particularly in cases where they are their family’s main source of income. Both female and male workers may rely heavily on overtime hours in order to earn enough to live on.
Future work by Fair Wear Foundation will provide greater insights into gender-based concerns in the workplace, including ways to identify wage inequality. See the FWF violence against women portal to learn more.
In a landmark decision, Tunisia has approved comprehensive legislation to end ‘all violence against women’. The new law, which was unanimously adopted by the parliament on 26 July, aims to address ‘any physical, moral, sexual or economic aggression’. The EU has applauded the bill, commenting that this is a ‘crucial step towards absolute respect for human rights and equal opportunities’.
The legislation introduces sweeping reforms that will make it easier to prosecute domestic abuse and it provides for judicial and psychological assistance to victims. It imposes stiffer penalties for sexual abuse in the public sphere, including the workplace. The law also expands the definitions of gender-based violence to include psychological and economic abuse, both in the public and the domestic spheres. Read more
On 15th June, FWF’s Lisa Suess participated in the 40th anniversary conference of the Foreign Trade Association. She presented FWF’s work on gender equality in a panel titled Taking a Stand – Ending Inequality and Empowering Women in Global Supply Chains together with panellist from the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, ELEVATE, ITUC, DBL Group and OECD.
Lisa shared learnings from FWF’s long-standing on-the-ground experience in Bangladesh and India. Since 2012, FWF, together with local partners, has been implementing a gender programme in both countries, with initial funding by UN Women. Under the programme, FWF and its partners train factory management, line supervisors and workers on gender-based violence and establish anti-harassment committees. Read more
Today FWF celebrates International Women’s Day, a yearly event honouring the political, economic, cultural and social achievements of women.
This year’s theme, ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030’, focuses on the advancement of women and gender parity in the workforce. Equality is necessary for an economy that is sustainable, inclusive, and prosperous. International Women’s Day asks us to #BeBoldForChange—to take bold action in order to achieve the improvements we want to see in the lives of women worldwide. Read more
To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women FWF and the Training Centre of the International Labor Organization (ITCILO) are proud to launch their joint publication: the Resource Kit on gender-based violence in global supply chains. Read more
On 25 April, FWF was pleased to participate in an Amsterdam celebration of the 20th anniversary of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. Since its founding, the Trust Fund has funded 426 initiatives in 136 countries and territories, including the first phase of FWF’s groundbreaking pilot work on preventing violence against women in apparel factories. Read more
In this blog, Jo Morris reflects on how to achieve more equitable participation of women in global value chains.
The international research programme Capturing the Gains presented some general research conclusions about the way in which a more equitable participation of women in global value chains (GvCs) can be achieved through effective private, public and social governance. The research highlighted the way in which collective bargaining brought positive results for women workers. This is a key element of Fair Wear Foundation’s Strategic Partnership with trade unions CNV Internationaal and Mondiaal FNV, funded by the Dutch Foreign Ministry. Read more
The factory is under pressure to deliver orders on time. Because they have deadlines to meet, supervisors have become more stressed. This is not very good timing for Salma. She is having her period and needs to use the toilet frequently and when she does she is verbally and physically abused by her floor manager. This is a daily reality for many garment workers in Bangladesh. Read more
Gender expert Jo Morris zeroes in on the work of FWF on reducing gender-based violence within the framework of the Strategic Partnership
The pathways to improvement in the global garment industry are influenced by complex social and economic dynamics. The new FWF Strategic Partnership is designed to address these issues at the different levels. Read more
During the ILO gender academy in November 2013 in Turin, FWF held a workshop on gender based violence and harassment in garment factories. Sexual harassment and violence against women are widespread problems in garment factories in Bangladesh and India. FWF initiated a unique programme to help women workers and their managers prevent violence.
In this blog, Jo Morris shares more about casualisation of female labour, and the role of women in global production networks
Firms in the North and South increasingly outsource production and services to developing countries through global production networks. Experts from North and South came together to research and promote strategies for fairer trade and decent work. The resulting programme, Capturing the Gains, aims to develop knowledge on employment and wellbeing of workers and small producers in global production networks. Read more
Jo Morris shares her knowledge on women migrant workers and the challenges they face.
A large proportion of garment workers in most countries are also migrant workers, often internal, but sometimes international as well. Migrant workers face additional discrimination and difficulties due to the shift from rural to urban environments; the loss of support networks; class, caste or ethnic bias; language barriers, and the dangers of dormitory living. Read more
For many women in the Ready Made Garment (RMG) industry, harassment is an everyday occurrence. The problem is systemic – about 60 percent of women have reported some form of harassment or violence – from forced labour, to verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment. In more recent times, workplace violence against women has been increasingly recognised as an issue, and efforts have been made towards prevention and action to combat the problem. For example, countries like Bangladesh and India, have incorporated anti-harassment policies as part of their labour regulation frameworks. Read more
Women’s Safety at Work the widespread problem of gender-based violence (GBV) in garment factories. Fair Wear Foundation has worked together with brands and factories to get solid information on the extent and scope of the problem in different countries, as well as on how much workers know about their rights. Read more
Jo Morris examines the Beijing Platform for Action, 20 years after its adoption.
Violence against women is a human rights violation and a serious impediment to women’s progress in any area of life. It undercuts women’s health, prospects for education and productive work, and ability to participate as full members of their societies. Read more
Fair Wear Foundation’s 8 Labour Standards form the basis for its work with members, factories, and workers. When workers are not aware of their rights, they are not empowered to claim them. Between 2012-2013, FWF conducted a survey among women workers in garment factories in Bangladesh. Read more
Jo Morris talks to us about UN efforts to achieve gender equality through gender mainstreaming
Gender Mainstreaming sounds complicated – but basically means integrating a gender dimension into all policy and practice decisions. In other words it means that we all need to wear a ‘gender lens’ when we think about any policy area of public and private life – after all more than half the world’s population are women, yet women suffer the effects of many ‘gender blind’ policy decisions.
The vast majority of the millions of garment workers in south and southeast Asia are women. Most are young, often teenagers and the first generation of women to work outside the home. Their jobs should, and have the possibility to, provide a path to decent work and a better life. Read more