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.


FAQ on gender-based violence

Date: 04/02/2016

What do we talk about when we talk about Violence against Women?

One of the main problems when talking about gender-based violence is that we tend to think of violence as something very specific, like hitting someone. But violence against women can take many forms. Here are the most frequently asked questions about gender-based violence, violence against women, and the work of FWF on these topics. 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.

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

Date: 30/07/2018

30 July 2018

All Fair Wear Foundation member brands commit to the FWF 8 labour standards which includes all work being freely chosen: no forced or bonded labour, and no child labour in their production factories.

Today, 30 July, is World Day Against Human Trafficking. Human trafficking is a form of exploitation that frequently intersects with child labour, forced labour, and bonded labour. In 2016, the ILO estimated that 40 million people were victims of modern slavery, approximately 25 million of which were victims of forced labour. They further estimate that 71% of modern slavery victims are women and girls.

Forced labour may be present in the garment industry, for example in informal work environments—whereby workers are not protected by legal and regulatory frameworks—or in labour intensive parts of the garment supply chain.  According to the Global Slavery Index 2018, many of the production countries where FWF brands source exhibit risk factors for modern slavery within the population, particularly amongst marginalised groups.

For example, a form of forced labour in India known as the Sumangali Scheme recruits young women and girls, typically from a lower caste, to work in spinning factories on the promise of a lump sum payment at the end of three years, which is meant to be used to cover their wedding expenses. This system can lead to child labour, limited freedom of movement, excessive working hours and lack of adequate leave. Women may be unable to stop working at the factory before the end of three years, as they risk forfeiting their pay.

To learn more about the Sumangali Scheme and Bonded Labour in India, see this FWF report.

Breaking the Silence

Date: 01/05/2018

This International Worker’s Day Fair Wear Foundation releases its report ‘Breaking the Silence: The FWF Violence and Harassment Prevention Programme.’

Violence and harassment against women and men is a widespread issue in the world of work that affects all occupations and sectors. It is especially prevalent in the garment industry, which employs a high number of women, often in lower-paid, lower-power positions.

‘A large majority of women garment workers have faced some kind of harassment,’ Suhasini Singh, FWF India country representative.

FWF, recognising the importance of tackling this issue at the factory level, launched the FWF Violence and Harassment Prevention Programme in 2012. The aim of the Programme is to establish effective systems to address and prevent violence and harassment against women and men in the world of work.

The workers, supervisors and management receive training on gender-based violence, the local legal framework, and on workplace harassment committees. Often the issues being covered are new to the participants.

‘Most only think of a sexual offence or brutal physical violence. They don’t see verbal abuse or shouting as harassment or violence,’ Ambalika Roy, a FWF trainer with MARG.

The training concludes with the establishment of a functioning workplace harassment committee. In order to ensure these committees are functional, FWF works with them for at least a year empowering the committee members and entrenching the committee in the workplace culture.

Brands too have a role in preventing and addressing violence and harassment. Production pressure—including price pressure and lead time pressure in factories—is linked to violence and harassment

‘Brands can influence the production pressure at the factory. If production pressure continues to be unreasonably high, harassment and violence at work cannot be tackled.’ Stephanie Karl, FWF verification officer

The programme has been implemented in 78 factories across Bangladesh and India, training hundreds of supervisors and managers, and thousands of workers. But the results can be seen beyond the numbers.

The most notable achievement of the Programme so far is that workers have started to speak up. They are more confident and feel empowered. You can see it in their faces.’ Bablur Rahman, FWF Bangladesh representative

To learn more, download the full report here.

Why an ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment at Work is needed

Date: 08/12/2017

Both women and men experience violence and harassment in the world of work, but unequal status and power relations in society and at work often result in women being far more exposed to violence and harassment.

Gender-based violence remains one of the most tolerated violations of workers’ human rights. According to statistics, 35% of women over the age 15—meaning 818 million women globally—have experienced sexual or physical violence.


Violence against women is defined by the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (adopted December 1993), as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life’.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is violence that is directed against an individual or group of individuals based on their gender identity. GBV encompasses violence against women and girls as well as against men and boys, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI), and other individuals who do not conform to dominant perceptions of gender.

Despite these numbers, there is still no international law that sets a baseline for taking action to eradicate violence and harassment in the world of work.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is considering an international convention on ‘Violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, against Women and Men at Work’. The first discussion will take place at the ILO Conference in June 2018.

Janneke Bosman from CNV Internationaal: ‘It’s very important that we adopt an ILO standard to address gender-based violence in the workplace. It is an important step toward improving the working conditions of women worldwide. This could save millions of dollars on sick leave and hospital care, and could increase worker productivity. Not only would a standard benefit the workers, especially women workers, but it would also benefit employers and governments. Governments could achieve their goals on decent work, and employers’ image would be improved with regard to tackling issues of gender-based violence.’

FWF recognises the need for international conventions and laws that are put in place to ensure and support fair working conditions. An ILO standard would be a step towards ensuring that the changes are adopted and integrated worldwide. In 2018, FWF and its partners will work to support the ILO in making this decision by providing expertise and evidence in part based on FWF brands’ work in global garment supply chains.

FWF Marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Date: 25/11/2017

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This year’s theme, Leave No One Behind, is especially poignant. 2017 has seen an unparalleled outcry against sexual harassment that has spread across the world. Millions of women have gone public with their stories of harassment and assault, and, in the wake of the burgeoning number of women who have come forward, the #MeToo campaign emerged. This hashtag was shared millions of times in a few short weeks, and trended in 85 countries. What before was a faceless statistic—one out of every three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex or emotionally abused in her lifetime, most often by a partner—has become our friends and family. The campaign highlighted the fact that sexual harassment is an everyday occurrence for women in all spheres of life, but we cannot forget that it particularly affects the most marginalised and vulnerable. There are many women worldwide who are still unable to speak out, and many who will not believed if they do.

Leave No One Behind is a reminder that we must make the world free of violence for all women, including those who are commonly ignored—the refugees, migrants, minorities, indigenous peoples, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters.

Women represent the majority of garment workers; approximately 20 million women work in garment factories, mostly in concentrated in Asia, where the majority of our clothes are produced. Currently, women make up 70% of the world’s poor, and this is also most pronounced in Asia, the continent with the biggest gender wage gap. Gender-based violence in garment factories is a prevalent but preventable issue. In order to Leave No One Behind, it is necessary to alleviate the conditions that make women garment workers vulnerable—poverty, lack of education and access to power.

One of the ways that FWF is doing this is through our supervisor training programme. Along with Indian partners SAVE and CIVIDEP, FWF trains women to become supervisors and re-educates current supervisors on communication and management, with an emphasis on anti-harassment. The aim is to reduce workplace violence and economic discrimination against women in garment factories.

To learn more about FWF’s work in combatting violence against women, keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter feeds during the 16 Days of Activism between now and 10 December.

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

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

Violence against women in the workplace: CNV Internationaal report

Date: 26/04/2016

CNV Internationaal recently published a report on violence against women in the workplace in several countries, among which Indonesia. FWF is initiating projects in the country in 2016.

For Indonesia, the report shows that gender based violence at work is a concern among women workers in the garment industry. Nevertheless, neither workplace violence nor sexual harassment are included in the country’s legislation. In 2011 the Minister of Manpower and Transmigration issued Guidelines on Sexual Harassment Prevention at the Workplace. This document establishes that sexual harassment at work is prohibited. While it is a good start, these measures are not legally binding.

The report then recommends to make legislation dealing with sexual harassment at work priority In the coming five years, one of the strategies of FWF, CNV Internationaal, Mondiaal FNV and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to increase capacities of local organisations for effective lobbying and advocacy. The Strategic Partnership Programme of the four partners will contribute to the legislation process to protect women’s safety at work.

There are currently seven FWF members working in Indonesia with about 20 factories. Most of them are outdoor garments and accessories brands.

Artwork Focus Group discussions:

Date: 06/03/2016
Most of the workers in garment factories are women, particularly in India in Bangladesh. And the personal stories of some of them have been gathered and published by Fair Wear Foundation.

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.

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

Learning experiences on the factory floor

Date: 16/02/2016

A factory manager in Bangladesh shares his experience with FWF’s Violence Prevention programme.


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

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