Breaking the Silence

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.

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