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

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

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

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


Date: 15/03/2017

Jo Morris, Visiting Professor in Practice, London School of Economics and Political Science, Gender Institute, examines the not-so-obvious relationship between gender-based violence and living wages.

The vast majority of garment workers – in some regions as many as 95% – are women. Women are found in the lowest-paid jobs in garment factories, and are much less likely than men to work in better-paid supervisory or managerial roles. Women are low-paid: they and their families stand to gain most from a living wage in the apparel sector, and in future blogs I will explore the reasons why. 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

Women’s employment in global supply chains

Date: 06/12/2016

Women represent the vast majority of garment workers, making up over three-quarters of the workforce worldwide. The garment industry offers women a chance to earn an income, obtain independence and become more active participants in social, economic and political spheres.  However, the reality of their situation often falls far from the ideal. Research shows that women face discriminatory practices in the garment industry and many experience high levels of gender-based violence at work.

The new joint publication by  ITCILO and Fair Wear Foundation: Gender-based violence in global supply chains: Resource Kit  highlights the key issues still facing women in global garment supply chains. „ 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

Different manifestations of violence against women

Date: 03/03/2016

Jo Morris explains violence against women and girls around the world, and the sexual and reproductive health consequences.

Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. It knows no social, economic or national boundaries. Worldwide, the UN estimates one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence or abuse in her lifetime because she is a woman. Violence against women is often described as a ‘global epidemic’ by international agencies.

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

Hidden issues towards better working conditions for women

Date: 03/03/2016

A guest blog by Gisela Burckhardt, development expert and head of the Executive Board of FEMNET e.V.

We are avid consumers. Today, we buy 4 times more clothes than we did in the 1980s. And why wouldn’t we? The price of clothes is at an all-time low. But making clothes is a costly enterprise. And workers in textile factories are paying the price– with starvation wages, unpaid overtime and even their lives. Considering that most workers in the garment industry are women, it is women who are disproportionately paying the price for our fast-fashion hunger. Read more

Safety during travel: the case of the woman in the bus

Date: 02/03/2016

Women’s safety at work deals not only with things that happen while women are at a factory but also, for example, with what happens with their family life, or in the time that they travel to and from work. In this short video, a manager explains the case of an employee that felt unsafe after leaving the factory. Read more

Why are there fewer women in supervisory positions in Bangladesh?

Date: 02/03/2016

Juliette Li, International Verification Coordinator at FWF shares the answer to the question of why so few women reach the position of supervisor in Bangladesh

When I visited a factory in Bangladesh, I asked the factory manager why there were so few female supervisors. He hesitated a bit, as if he found it difficult to give me an answer. Then he said, ‘Oh, usually women do not like this kind of responsibilities.’ When I asked him why, he pointed at a women standing next to a sewing machine and said, ‘She is the only female supervisor at our factory. She can explain.’ Read more

Home life: the story of Nazima

Date: 29/02/2016

Women often have a double job. They work in the factory and then go home to take on household chores and look after their children often without much help. Balancing these responsibilities can be difficult sometimes. The story of Nazima shows how the balance between overtime and child care can be difficult to maintain sometimes. Read more

A Strategic Partnership to combat gender-based violence

Date: 28/02/2016

The garment industry, concentrated in South and Southeast Asia, employs 60-75 million people, of which 80% are women.  This means that roughly 55 million women currently work in textile factories. 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

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

Forced labour in South India: Sumangali schemes

Date: 20/02/2016

In this post, FWF’s Suhasini Singh and Lisa Suess explain the issue of Sumangali.

The Indian state Tamil Nadu is home to some 1,600 spinning mills and employs around 400,000 workers (sixty percent female). Most of the production is concentrated in the districts of Erode, Tiruppur, Dindigul and Coimbatore.  A forced labour issue has emerged in the region in the past 20 years: Spinning mills employ agents that use the vulnerability of poor, often rural families from lower castes, tempting parents with a lump sum payment for their daughter’s wedding at the end of three years of labour. Read more

Toilets and other necessities: A factory case

Date: 19/02/2016

At a factory in Bangladesh, there are only 5 toilets. These must be shared by the roughly 1120 women who work on the factory floor every day.  The problem is made worse by the fact that they get limited breaks during the working hours. Very often, there is a long line of women who are waiting to use the toilets. They have to wait, and the factory loses valuable production time. 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

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

Maternity leave: the story of Amena

Date: 14/02/2016

Read the case of Amena, a new mother in Bangladesh who faced problems at work when she wanted to go back to the factory, to earn money for herself and for her child. 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

Excessive overtime: the case of Rahima

Date: 10/02/2016

Line and floor managers are often under a lot of pressure to meet delivery targets. So they request workers to work extra hours. In Bangladesh, overtime is regulated by law, but the rules are not always applied. Rahima’s case illustrates very well how the issues of low wages, overtime and harassment are linked. 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

A short story about women

Date: 06/02/2016

Fair Wear Foundation’s own Margreet Vrieling tells us a short story about women, and women who work in garment factories. What are the main problems they face? And what can we do to improve the situation?

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