Partner Spotlight: NGWF (Bangladesh)

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Factories in the garment industry in Bangladesh are major suppliers for big box retailers such as Wal-Mart. While egregious rights violations are prevent throughout the garment industry, when compared to their male counterparts, women (who comprise up to 90% of the workforce in this industry) are subject to higher levels of discrimination in terms of wages, promotions, mandatory and unpaid overtime and their right and ability to organize to defend their rights. In this context, the National Garment Workers Federation of Bangladesh seeks to address workplace discrimination in garment factories through research, trainings, campaigns and broader efforts to strengthen and support trade union movements in Bangladesh.

Recently, with support from the ILRF, NGWF has conducted research in Wal-Mart sub-contracting factories and building the capacity of women workers to advocate for higher living wages and for the protection of their rights. The project has identified 50 factories where research was to be conducted, and trainings and workshops were to be held (75 women were to be directly targeted). 46 of the 50 factories were identified as Wal-Mart sub contracting factories. Research findings indicate that gender based discrimination is prevalent in terms of wages (with women earning than a man for performance of the same work) and in terms of promotions to supervisory and managerial positions (while women comprise more than 80% of the workforce, nearly 80% of the managerial and supervisory positions are held by men). Findings also indicated that men are provided with more facilities and benefits than women.

The trainings and workshops focused on educating women about their basic legal rights; a newly declared minimum wage and its implementation; fundamental changes in the new labor law; methods for organizing; leadership quality and sex discrimination. Participants benefited greatly from these workshops, as the majority of them knew nothing about the rights protections they were entitled to under the law. Women were determined to share their knowledge with their friends and co-workers. According to the NGWF evaluation, the project achieved more than 95% success, even in spite of the state of emergency in Bangladesh which restricted all trade union activities.