Empowering female Ready-Made Garments (RMG) workers

Ready-made Garment (RMG) workers’ rally on safety and equity. Photo: UN Women

There are almost 5,000 ready-made garment (RMG) factories in Bangladesh, contributing to the biggest export earning sector (80.7 per cent of the total export earnings) in the financial year of 2017. Women comprise 60–70 per cent of the RMG workforce, but with low literacy level, knowledge and little control over their working conditions.

UN Women is working with partners such as ILO, employers and employees towards improving working conditions for women in RMG sector. This includes removing gender-based barriers, discriminatory attitudes and practices at work, addressing sexual harassment at work and on their way to work, improving workers’ financial literacy and access to financial services, and training female workers to build their confidence and aspire for higher-level jobs towards empowering livelihoods for RMG workers.

At the policy level, UN Women and ILO are partnering to analyze growth and employment trends in the sector, and bottlenecks and opportunities for women to identify policies needed to ensure continued employment opportunities for women.

For skills enhancement of RMG workers, we have piloted a life-skills training course that teaches negotiation, communication and supervisory skills to the workers, and helps build their confidence to pursue higher level positions as well as challenge workplace issues such as sexual harassment. 200 workers have participated in the training so far. With a view to creating enabling environment for women workers in the factory, the male supervisors were brought under the sensitization program. 100 male supervisors were provided 12 hours sensitization sessions on gender equality and empowerment of female workers. In the 16 hours sensitization program, the supervisors received training on different issues, that demonstrated gender-sensitive work-place behaviour.

A learning app on sexual harassment at the workplace and immediate public places has been developed and RMG workers are able to access information on what sexual harassment means, where to seek help in case they get harassed, etc. through this app.