Workplace violence against women is increasingly acknowledged as a serious issue that deserves attention and resources to combat it. Fair Wear Foundation has identified some of the most important risks that affect women, and particularly women garment workers, and that can lead to workplace violence.


Welcome to FWF’s Women’s Safety at Work

Date: 07/03/2016

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

FWF Gender Forum – One Year On

Date: 08/10/2018

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.

‘Working together’

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.

Women Workers Continue to Face Wage Inequality

Date: 30/08/2018

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.

Tunisian parliament takes milestone step to address violence against women

Date: 03/08/2017

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

FWF shares gender knowledge at FTA conference

Date: 22/06/2017

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

International Women’s Day

Date: 08/03/2017 India supervisory training

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

Resource Kit on gender-based violence now online

Date: 25/11/2016

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

FWF participates on 20th anniversary of UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women

Date: 09/05/2016

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

Women in value chains: towards equitable participation

Date: 03/03/2016

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

Factory floor harassment: the story of Salma

Date: 27/02/2016

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

FWF’s Strategic Partnership with trade unions and the Dutch government: working to end violence against women

Date: 27/02/2016

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

FWF workshop at ILO on gender-based violence in garment factories

Date: 26/02/2016

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.

Economic and Social Upgrading in Global Production Networks

Date: 24/02/2016

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

Precarious situations: migrant workers

Date: 23/02/2016

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

Antiharassment Committees

Date: 17/02/2016

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

A survey on GBV at the workplace in Bangladesh garment factories

Date: 15/02/2016

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

Violence against women, twenty years after the Beijing Declaration

Date: 13/02/2016

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

Labour rights awareness among female garment workers in Bangladesh

Date: 09/02/2016

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

The UN on Gender Mainstreaming

Date: 07/02/2016

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.

Read more

Garment workers in South East Asia and gender-based violence

Date: 05/02/2016

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