Fundamentalism, harassment, cyber-crime and lack of institutional advocacy are impeding the major workforce in Bangladesh’s apparel industry – women – and there is no way forward to ensuring their rights in the industry other than raising awareness about it.
A convention of women apparel workers in Bangladesh, held in capital Dhaka city on January 30, 2017, outlined these factors as major barriers to the workplace security of the nearly 70 per cent female workers of the 3.6 million working population in its apparel industry. Apparel Resources was present at the event to provide you with the first-hand insights.
Speaking at the convention held at BIAM Foundation, Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu highly lauded the apparel workers, terming them ‘golden assets’ for their contribution to the country’s economy and said the main barrier to women’s rights in the industry is fundamentalism.
Calling out to dump these fundamentalist quarters, Minister Inu, who is also the President of Bangladesh’s Socialist Party, said, “Our Government is always cautious against these fundamentalists, and cybercriminals, who spread lies about our working women on the internet.”
At the event, the workers placed demands for ‘workplace security,’ ‘anti-harassment measures at workplace’, ‘equal wages for women workers’, ‘maternity leave’, and the ‘inclusion of day-care centres at factories’ to the minister; to which the Minister replied, “At first, you (women garment workers) must be aware of your rights.”
Adding further to describe the situation of women workers in Bangladesh on the ground, Dr Pratima Pal Majumder, President of Karmojibi Nari (working women) foundation, told that nearly 70 per cent of the employed women workforce at garment factories are not offered an appointment letter.
“An appointment letter is fundamentally entwined with the concept of worker rights. These women workers must have appointment letter to ensure their place in the workplace and rights,” she said.
Garment leaders, brought under the Oikya CSO Platform, an initiative of Karmojibi Nari and non-government organisation (NGO) Care Bangladesh, also echoed their situation in overcoming all the barriers to have their voice heard at the factories.
Ferdousi Begum, President of Bangladesh Sangjukta Garments Sramik Federation, speaking at the programme, said that most of the factories offer poor working conditions for workers, even more so for women. “The garment workers are like prisons. We never can see the daylight.”
Nasima Begum, a garment worker who underwent leadership training through the Oikya CSO Platform, said she suffered several social constraints when she first stepped off her house to join a garments factory, which started from her family. “In the garments too, it was difficult and my voice was not heard.”
Among others, representatives of International Labour Organisation (ILO), European Union and other stakeholders placed speeches at the programme. Shamima Akhter Shirin, president of Bangladesh Garment Textile Workers’ Federation, placed the declaration speech.
The programme was organised by Karmojibi Nari and Care Bangladesh, an initiative funded by European Union, in association with Australian Development Cooperation.