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.
So what is Violence against Women?
In General Assembly Resolution 48/104, the United Nations defines violence against women 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”.
Globally violence against women manifests itself as physical, sexual, emotional and economic.
In the workplace of the garment industries in production countries, where FWF members are active, the most common forms include verbal abuse, physical abuse, psychological violence, and sexual harassment. Forms of violence are different across different countries and areas. In some areas in South India, for example, forced labour (or commonly known as ‘sumangali schemes’) is identified to be a common practice.
Sexual harassment is a form of violence against women, commonly experienced in the workplace and factory. It is usually a way in which a man exercises power or control over a female colleague, whether of similar ranking or more senior or junior to him.
Why does FWF focus on women’s safety?
- Up to 90% of the workforce in garment factories in production countries where FWF is active is women
- It is estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives.
- A study conducted in New Delhi found that 92% of women reported having experienced some form of sexual violence in public spaces in their lifetime
- According to a FWF survey, up to 75% women workers in the garment industry in Bangladesh have experienced some kind of harassment at work
It is very important to engage men in all programmes on women’s safety. Most men in the society are not violent. FWF uses the leverage of our members and the power of factory management, to protect and advance women’s rights.
Men can be subjected to sexual harassment, especially young men in predominantly female factories. Sexual harassment might have a different impact on men and women. Current research has found inconsistent results on the question, and more is needed to determine the differences.
Given the disproportionate numbers of women and girls that experience violence, the focus of FWF’s current work is on women and girls, and therefore the term violence against women is used as well as gender-based violence.
What does FWF do?
In 2012, FWF started a pilot in Bangladesh and India with funding support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Trust Fund to end Violence against Women. Together with local partner organisations, FWF provided capacity-building workshops and training sessions to factory management and workers on labour rights and gender based violence. FWF established local helplines to handle complaints from workers and unions on harassment and violations of labour rights.
By March 2015, FWF have established 17 functional workers-run anti-harassment committees in India and Bangladesh. Workers organise regular meetings, discuss issues in committee meetings. With the help of FWF trainers, they suggest solutions and negotiate with factory management on various issues. The pilot provided capacity building training to managers and workers in 45 factories. Through peer education, the project had reached 45,000 workers, half of whom are women.
Seminars and roundtable meetings with stakeholders were organised in both countries, to discuss how to prevent and handle cases of gender-based violence.
FWF plans to extend the project to more countries from 2016.