Bangladesh: Anti-harassment committees in apparel industry "ineffective" according to study
"Tackling ‘ineffective’ Bangladesh anti-harassment committees", October 12 2023
The anti-harassment committees are charged with helping female Bangladesh garment workers avoid and prevent unwanted attention and approaches from male colleagues and managers.
However, a summary shared with Just Style ahead of full publication later this month (October 2023) said: “Women workers in RMG [readymade garments] are plagued with problems of different natures where harassment and violence of several forms significantly affect them… The gender-based violence (GBV) and harassment in this industry have multiple facets — verbal, sexual, physical, and psychological.” And it concluded committees were ineffective: “Except in a few cases, most of the committees could not provide any solid/robust example of solving issues/problems through the committee initiative,” said the shared summary.
The study, entitled ‘Assessment of Functionality of the Complaint Committee (cc)/Anti-harassment Committee (AHC) in the RMG workplaces’, reinforces the findings of other studies and claims from union leaders that the Bangladesh clothing and textile industry is failing to ensure a safe working environment for female workers, where reports of sexual harassment are common.
Indeed, a vast majority of Bangladesh apparel factories do not yet have anti-harassment committees according to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) data.
NGOs say they anti-harassment committees for female garment workers are needed ...
Nazma Akter, a prominent workers’ union leader in Bangladesh, president of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation and executive director of Awaj Foundation, which aims to protect workers’ rights in the ready-made-garment sector of Bangladesh, told Just Style: “It [harassment] is not limited to common workers or supervisors; instead it has spread to employees at a higher level as well. It’s been soaring since the pandemic,” said Akter.
Mostafiz Ahmed, the academic who led the BILS study, said there are several factors why these committees are not effective. A key problem, he said, is the motivation of the factories that formed these committees: “All the [representatives of] factory managements [where the study was conducted] said [committees were formed] because of pressure from the buyers,” said Ahmed. “So, the basic motivation has a lot to do with buyer-driven demands, their compliance, code of conduct etc.,” rather than addressing the issue properly.
Asif Ibrahim, BGMEA director, however, does not agree with the study.