Female representation is necessary at the mid-level management of garment factories and at trade unions to bring down the number of cases of violence against women at workplaces, said women labour leaders and rights activists.
Work environment has improved significantly after the Rana Plaza collapse in April 2013, but there's more to be done to provide job security and harassment-free workplace to women, speakers said at a programme organised by Shojag, a coalition of five non-government organisations, to disseminate findings of a baseline study on situation of gender-based violence in the garments industry.
The study was conducted between March and June this year with 382 female garment workers from Savar, Ashulia and Gazipur interviewed.
Only 11 percent of the women reported feeling insecure at their workplaces, which was a reflection of progress made so far regarding work environment. But of those who had experienced violence but didn't seek any kind of assistance in and outside the factory premises, 67 percent said they have a lack of trust in prevention bodies and 43 percent said they had filed complaints in the past but to no avail; 22 percent feared losing their jobs.
An initiative to end gender-based violence in the garments industry is being implemented by Shojag with support from the Global Fund for Women.
The interviewees, all from complaint factories as suggested by Shojag, also spoke of verbal abuse, improper touching by supervisors, beating and slapping at work.
Some of the factories the interviewees were working for did not have Sexual Harassment Complain Committee that every garment unit should have as per a High Court directive in 2009. If there was any, 27.7 percent were not aware of the committees and their activities.
Garment workers get sexually harassed, stalked in public transports and other public places as well.
Mid-level managers or supervisors should be trained in how to boost production by not resorting to verbal abuse and psychological pressure on workers, speakers said. Community-based development is required to ensure that women get all the support needed to continue working during pregnancy and after they come back from maternity leave.
There are laws and policies to protect female garment workers from physical and sexual harassment but their implementation is scarce.
However, the employers are the ones who can play the key role in addressing gender-based violence in the garments industry, discussants said.
Begum Morsheda Hai, assistant secretary of law division of the labour and employment ministry, and Matiur Rahman, joint inspector general of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments were present at the event.