IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) Women Committee hosted a roundtable discussion on how to address gender-based violence in the RMG sector of Bangladesh, as part of UN 16 Days of Activism against GBV, supported by ETI Bangladesh, Mondial FNV, and Fair Wear Foundation under Sustainable Textile Initiative: Together for Change (STITCH) and NORAD.
The roundtable discussion featured key figures, including Director of Labour Department of the Ministry of Labour and Employment Md Anamul Hoque, Deputy Director of the Labour Department of the Ministry of Labour and Employment Dr. Rokhsana Chowdhury, Deputy Country Director of Solidarity Center Monika Hartsel, Chairman Of Standing Committee Of ILO And Labour Affairs & BGMEA ANM Saifuddin, Chairman of WRC Md Shakil Akter Chowdhury, IBC Vice President Babul Akter and General Secretary Kutubuddin Ahmed. Representatives from government bodies, non-government organizations, BGMEA, and trade unions actively participated, reflecting the collaborative approach needed to address this issue.
“Women deserve the credit for the GDP's present rise due to having entered the workforce.” said the Director of Labour Department of the Ministry of Labour and Employment Md Anamul Hoque.
Deputy Country Director of Solidarity Center Monika Hartsel said “The core work of Trade Unions is to challenge the practice of gender-based violence at workplace. TU should always address and fight back GBV.”
Participants also discussed the issue of women's unpaid labor burden caused by social constructs that prevent them from entering the workforce.
Zakia Sultana, Senior Co-Chairman of the Women Committee, emphasized the necessity of creating a safe workplace not only as a legal right for women workers but as a fundamental human right. The RMG industry hailed as the backbone of Bangladesh's economy, relies on the invaluable contributions of women. It is imperative to eradicate physical, mental, economic, and sexual harassment faced by women workers.
Highlighting concerns raised by the Women Committee, Zakia Sultana referenced research data from a joint study conducted by ETI-GIZ-BRAC University in 2022. The study revealed a concerning trend of women workers leaving the garment sector citing gender-based violence as one of the major reasons. The need for further research to explore these reasons was underscored.
IBC demanded the ratification of ILO Convention 190 to identify and combat workplace violence and harassment. They also emphasized the importance of amending the Labor Act to include explicit provisions addressing violence and harassment against women at the workplace to reflect the directive of the Bangladesh High Court.
Women Secretary of IBC China Rahman concluded the session with a call for the adoption of a zero-tolerance policy against violence and harassment, emphasizing the formation and active functionality of Sexual Harassment Complaint Committees.