This International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we want to help shed a light on the large scale of gender-based violence in the garment industry, and suggest some ways to fight it.
Gender-based violence can take place in every working environment, although this is particularly widespread in the fashion industry. For example a survey on 6 garment factories in Cambodia, showed that 48% of the female workers said they had experienced gender-based violence on the job, with 28% stating that someone at work had forced them to sleep with them to extend a contract, fix their sewing machine or to obtain a bonus. Women have also reported managers and other leaders hit them, pulled their hair, groped, touched and kissed them at work and asked for sex, or even threatened with death.
Addressing gender-based violence at work is “important for creating a working environment free from gender-based violence for our [union] members,” says Sumiyati, chairperson for Women and Children’s Affairs at the National Industrial Workers Union Federation.
All fashion brands play a role in engaging with workplaces that are free of gender-based violence, and where all workers are treated with dignity. At CAFIN we are aware of our responsibility in this area and therefore only uses fairtrade suppliers and enterprises that actively play a role in combatting gender-based violence. This means our manufacturers are accredited by the FairWear Foundation (FWF), which ensures fair labour practices across all accredited manufacturers. For example, FWF help factories to set up anti-harassment committees, which can file grievances on behalf of garment workers who have experienced harassment. We are also in the process of developing products in partnership with organisations such as Bow Sowing Centre, who provide sowing classes in East London aimed at supporting women who have suffered with domestic violence.
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Illustration by @darylrainbow