Workplace violence against women garment workers in India and Bangladesh is being increasingly acknowledged as a serious problem. The Fair Wear Foundation has launched a program to tackle this. It combats harassment and violence against female workers with a three-prong strategy: training courses for managers and workers; anti-harassment policies and committees; and worker help lines. The project involves garment factories, European clothing brands, governments, civil society organisations and trade unions, both in Europe and in Asia. It’s providing rare insight and solid documentation of a problem which is rarely spoken about.
It’s estimated about 60 per cent of factory workers in the two countries have experienced some form of harassment – verbal or physical – while at work. Hostile working conditions lead to low productivity and high worker turnover. It also limits the potential contributions of millions of women workers to the broader society and economy.
Things are slowly changing. Factories are allowing training for workers and managers on the importance and benefits of treating women better; several anti-harassment committees and telephone help lines have been established; workers are speaking up about problems; and factories and clothing brands are working together to remedy those problems.