The Stream

How can women garment workers’ rights be safeguarded in the #MeToo era?

Reports highlight gender-based violence faced by women working in factories making clothes for world’s biggest brands.

As the #MeToo movement makes strident gains for women across the world, campaigners are focusing on how to improve the lives of female factory employees producing items for well-known clothing brands.

A series of recent investigations by a coalition of labour organisations that includes Global Labor Justice and the Asia Floor Wage Alliance uncovered damning evidence of gender-based violence in supply chains for Gap, H&M and Walmart. Women working in factories in Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Bangladesh reported physical and verbal abuse, sexual harassment, unhealthy working environments and forced overtime – all while making items for sale in the world’s most popular ‘fast fashion’ stores.

Millions of women working in these tough environments around the world find that their jobs take a personal toll even after the factory gates close each day. Dangerous after-hours commutes, difficulties in taking sick leave and insecure employment contracts are common. The reports compiled by Global Labor Justice and their affiliates also highlighted cases where factory managers and HR departments failed to support pregnant workers and those with family commitments. Many garment factories are subcontractors fulfilling orders from larger companies, meaning that crucial oversight by local authorities is frequently missed.

Efforts to tackle the problem of sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination are underway within the International Labour Organization. On June 8, 187 members states agreed to work towards a Convention on ‘Ending violence and harassment in the world of work’, with negotiations on a final text expected next summer. In the meantime, organisations such as Care International, Fashion Revolution and Human Rights Watch are pushing for reform.

The Stream will examine the common problems faced by women working in garment factories and consider ways to improve their working lives. Join the conversation at 19:30 GMT.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Rubana Huq @Rubanahuq
Managing Director, Mohammadi Group

Tara Rangarajan @Better_Work
Head of Communications, Brand Relationships and Country Programmes, Better Work 

Sarah Ditty @sarahditty
Head of Policy, Fashion Revolution

Shikha Silliman Bhattacharjee @shikhaphone 
Researcher, Asia Floor Wage Alliance

Read more:
Abuse is daily reality for female workers for Gap and H&M, says report –  The Guardian
Why we need a global treaty on sexual harassment at work – News Deeply

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.