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.
Working in garment factories can be an empowering experience for women, and give them economic independence. But often, this type of work carries risks to their safety and health in different ways. Fair Wear Foundation has identified some of the most important issues that affect women, and particularly women garment workers, and that can lead to violence in the workplace.
While we tend to think of violence as something very specific, like hitting someone, violence against women can take other forms. From excessive overtime, to being verbally abused, from being physically assaulted to being raped. The issue is not very visible in discussions about supply chain management, but it is pressing, and it is gaining more visibility.
For example, there is violence against women when they have to work 16-hour shifts at a factory and then they still have to go home to cook, clean and care for children. Women face violence when they are passed up for promotion to line manager at a factory because of their gender, rather than their qualities. And women are subjected to violence when they cannot take bathroom breaks, or when they have to keep on working throughout their pregnancy for lack of adequate maternity leave measures.
Women’s safety at work
FWF presents Women’s safety at work, with data from its projects in Bangladesh and India. It shows how measures such as training of top management, or the creation of anti-harassment committees, can help women improve their working conditions. Women are less wary of talking about the issues that they face, and feel empowered once more.
Through Women’s Safety at Work, Fair Wear Foundation seeks to provide a platform for disseminating the work carried out by itself and its partners wherever Ready Made Garment (RMG) production is found.