The Respect Campaign will shine a spotlight on Bangladesh for World Day For Safety and Health At Work to be held on April 28, 2018. The #metoo movement extends to all women around the globe and the garment industry in Bangladesh employs many women and children who remain exploited. The garment industry is central to Bangladesh’s economy, employing around 5 million workers. Cheap labour makes Bangladesh a popular sourcing country to foreign companies. However cheap labour means exploitatively low wages and risk-filled working conditions – the Rana Plaza collapse was a prominent but far from isolated incident in a series of deadly factory accidents.
The Accord: Improvements in Safety
Two hundred and seventeen companies, NGO’s and global and Bangladesh trade unions have signed the Acord which covers 1, 661 factories. The Accord is more than lip-service or a symbolic gesture, as kit is a legally binding agreement and brands are collectively contributing $10 million towards guaranteeing a safe working environment for the garment industry in Bangladesh.
Three years since its inception in 2013 as a response to the Rana Plaza tragedy, close to 3,700 inspections and re-inspections have been conducted. According to Union Network International (UNI), one of two global union signatories, over 100,000 safety issues have been identified and more than half of these have now been reported or resolved.
While the spotlight is on safety in Bangladesh, the country’s minimum wage does not constitute even a quarter of the estimated living wage. Millions of Bangladeshis remain unable to provide for their families basic needs.
Tarana Burke, as activist and founder and senior director of programs at Girls for Gender Equity her influence on building a movement this year is profound. Joined by Alyssa Milano, actor, writer, producer, activist and Unicef ambassador 2017 will be remembered as the year #MeToo, was a watersged moment when women came together to support each other in breaking their silence about sexual harassment and assault. It’s message is simple. You are not Alone. Sexual abuse is nothing new, but the sheer number of brave women who dared to publicly share our most painful experiences of assault and harassment represent a groundswell, with new voices coming forward every day. It is a true reckoning.
Violence against women and girls is pandemic. We must all speak out for those who can’t for the girls and women who suffer in silence. This is why it is time to say #HerToo
#HerToo is about our deepest desire to ensure the dignity of every woman and girl is honoured.
Tarana Burke’s original #Me, Too’ campaign launched in 2007, aimed to provide support to survivors of sexual violence who were maginalised, poor, under represented and without a network of community to protect them. Alyssa Milano’s #MeToo tweet in October more than hit a nerve – it helped launch a new solidarity among millions of women who increasingly, urgently shared their infuriating, devastating accounts of sexual violence and harassment.
Except those that didn’t.
For every woman and girl who has been empowered to say #MeToo – countless others are too afraid to break their silence. They fear denial, shame, punishment, blame, further violence and retaliations against them or their families.
Salaheya Khaun was a child bride and teen mother who suffered brutal domestic violence before she found a homeworkees job sticking quilts. But poverty led her to leave her family and become a garment workers at a popular UK retailer’s supplier in Dhaka.
Now in her mid 20’s, Salaheya is working 72 hour weeks and earning just 7000 Taka a month ( Roughly AUS$113). That’s only about half of a living wage.
Sewing from 8.00am – 5.00pm, she does three hours of overtime before returning to her room in a near by slum, a tiny space she shares with two other garment workers. Salaheya only sees her daughter once every two to three months – her parents care for the child, but they live in a village six hours away.
Because she is sending her parents almost half of her 7000 Taka salary to help care for her daughter, Salaheya cannot afford to cover her own basic needs.
‘I am in debt by around 1000 Taka every month because I need to find work at a factory with a higher salary, she says. I just ant to be able to support my family.’
Salaheya also explains that the factory where she works is hostile to unions – about 50 employees were fired for attempting to join one. She sees brand representatives visit the factory but has never been given the opportunity to speak with them.
It’s time to say #HerToo and lend your voice to ensuring every woman is safe.
What You Can Do
In Bangladesh and Cambodia for example, the garment industry respectively accounts for 89.2% and 77.4% of total merchandise exports in 2014.
The industry has fuelled the growth of economies and at the same time, facilitated millions of people migrating from lives of subsistent rural agriculture into factory work, giving them hope of a better life for themselves and their families.
However, we know that wherever measures haven’t been sufficient to uphold the rights for workers, the industry has also driven forced labour, child labour, unsafe working conditions and exploitation.
Expectations of the role of individual companies to address these issues have changed. Once, companies could argue that the responsibility to uphold worker rights rested with their suppliers. Now, cultural and consumer expectations have shifted and, as they’ve changed so too has the political and regulatory environment.
You as consumers, can do more by preferencing those companies doing most to uphold the rights of workers in the supply chain, abd by calling on those that aren’t to do better. Companies can do more by strengthening their labour rights systems and by ensuring that workers, from farm to factory, receive a living wage. And the Australian and New Zleand governments can do more by introducing legislation requiring companies to publicly report on the measures taken to address slavery and exploitation throughout their supply chains.
About World Day For Safety and Health At Work
The annual World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April promotes the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. It is an awareness-raising campaign intended to focus international attention on the magnitude of the problem and on how promoting and creating a safety and health culture can help reduce the number of work-related deaths and injuries.