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Learnings and Obstacles : How We Engage for a Gender Lens in OSH

19 February 2024, 10 am CET, 2.30 pm IST, 4 pm WIB, via Zoom

A gender-sensitive lens is needed in the field of occupational health and safety (OSH) - because gender-responsive OSH systems are decisive in improving the health of women workers. But how can a gender lens be translated from theory into practice? And which concrete activities can different stakeholders take? 

Join our OECD side session to answer these and other pressing questions. We draw from more than two years of experience of working in a Multi-Actor Partnership (MAP) for Gender-Sensitive Occupational Health and Safety in the Garment and Footwear Industry.

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Nasir Mansoor (NTUF), Zehra Khan (HBWWF) und Sina Marx (FEMNET) protestieren für das Lieferkettengesetz vor dem Reichstagsgebäude in Berlin, Januar 2023.

© FEMNET

September 2012: 260 people burn to death in Pakistani textile factory

On 11 September 2012, 260 people were burned alive and more than 50 people were injured at the Ali Enterprises textile factory in Pakistan. Barred windows, defective fire extinguishers and emergency exits that led nowhere made the factory a deadly trap for the workers. Just three weeks before the fire, the certification company RINA had categorised the factory - which mainly produced for the German textile company KiK - as safe.

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links: Zehra Khan (Foto: Patricia Carney) | rechts: Nasir Mansoor (Foto: Sina Marx)

The German Supply Chain Act (LkSG), which came into force on 1 January 2023, obliges companies to ensure compliance with labour rights in their value chains. One year after the law came into force, members of the Pakistani trade unions NTUF and HBWWF will come to Germany to discuss which human rights are still not being implemented in the value chains of German companies.

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© NGWF

Fears are growing that ongoing wage negotiations for the Bangladesh garment industry could result in a new poverty wage of only about 89 euros per month (10,400 taka), based on an outrageous proposal put forward by employers* at the last meeting of the wage committee. Unions and labor rights organizations reject this brazen attempt to keep workers trapped in poverty. The low wage proposal is the result of the unwillingness of major fashion brands to actively support workers* in their struggle for decent wages.

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© FEMNET

Taslima Akhter

Over 40 lakh of the workers in our country's readymade garments sector are waiting for a welcome change. Whether that change will come and bring relief is still in question. On one side, we have the workers protesting for a minimum wage of Tk 25,000, and on the other, those in power are concocting ways to thwart this mission.

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© Nandita Shivakumar

Across the garment industry, a majority-women workforce labours in plants owned and managed by men. A new report sheds light on gender-based violence in textile factories in India’s southernmost region.

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© FEMNET

For the first time in five years, the Bangladeshi government has formed a Wage Board to revise the minimum wage for the country’s RMG sector which employs roughly 4 million workers. The current minimum wage of 8,000 taka (roughly 65 Euro) was already insufficient for a decent living when it came into force in 2019. Since then, workers had to endure the additional pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent high inflation without seeing their wages increase at all.

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FEMNET partner organisation investigates prevailing working conditions and wage practices in garment manufacturing, and designs a fairer wage structure.

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© CIVIDEP, India

In the Indian state of Karnataka, with its textile industry stronghold Bengaluru, drastic changes to an important labor law are about to be implemented. The so-called Factories Bill 2023, Karnataka Amendment replaces a previously applicable standard. Important labor law achievements such as the abolition of night shifts or the introduction of the 8-hour day are to be repealed. The amended law is intended to give suppliers more leeway to respond more flexibly to order situations. The labor rights organization Cividep expects a significant deterioration in working conditions for thousands of female employees.

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Joined press release by FEMNET, NGWF and ECCHR

Bonn/Berlin. "10 years after Rana Plaza, there are still factories in Bangladesh producing clothes for international corporations like Amazon, IKEA or Tom Tailor, where there are hardly any safety checks. We can no longer accept this," says Amirul Haque Amin, president and co-founder of the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF).

FEMNET, ECCHR and NGWF file the first complaint on the basis of the Supply Chain Act which came into force in January 2023 with the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control. The complaint is based on a research conducted in Bangladesh in March 2023 by the trade union National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF), which identified safety deficiencies such as a lack of inspections, but also other labor rights violations such as a lack of freedom of association.

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Gender equity and occupational health and safety need to be thought together, especially for textile and footwear factories where women are predominantly employed. We started implementing this with a multi-actor partnership (MAP) on gender-responsive occupational health and safety launched in December 2021. A lot has happened since then!

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© FEMNET

This article was originally published 10th November 2022 on the site of the Bundeskanzler-Helmut-Schmidt-Stiftung.

Around 60 to 75 million people work in the textile and garment industry worldwide. The majority of them are women who work and live in strongly patriarchal societies such as Bangladesh or India. Supported by trade unions, only few of them dare to speak up against labour rights violations. As spaces for organised labour continue to shrink, freedom of expression is more and more trampled down.

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