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Dhaka Tribune

Stakeholders: Concerted efforts needed to advance women leadership in RMG sector

  • Inclusive industry, sustainable business
  • GEAR trained 800 female workers since 2016
Update : 09 Dec 2023, 07:36 PM

An event on "Gender Equality and Returns: Advancing Women Leadership, Skills Development and Productivity in the Supply Chain" took place in Chittagong on Saturday. 

The program brought together stakeholders from the RMG industry to showcase the Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) initiative in promoting gender equality and enhancing the advancement of women's leadership and skills in the RMG sector.

GEAR, a collaborative initiative by ILO and the IFC Better Work program, has trained 800 female workers since 2016, of which 528 have been promoted to supervisory roles. 

In partnership with the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE), this event marked the joint commitment to women's empowerment in the RMG sector.

The RMG industry, a crucial contributor to the national economy, is experiencing positive change through initiatives like GEAR. 

An Oxford University impact assessment revealed direct positive outcomes from GEAR including a 5% increase in line efficiency, a 39% wage increase for female supervisors, and improved quality control, showcasing enhanced confidence and capabilities among trained workers. 

Despite this, the sector still grapples with a mere 5% of supervisory roles held by women and an existing wage gap, highlighting the need for sustained efforts.

While acknowledging GEAR's successes, speakers at the event emphasized the necessity for collaborative action from the government, factory owners, buyers, development partners, UN agencies, and civil society organizations (CSOs). These collaborative efforts are essential to creating a more equitable garment industry.

Tuomo Poutiainen, country director of the ILO in Bangladesh, highlighted the significance of gender equality, adding: "The progress that we see in Bangladesh's RMG sector is impressive. It demonstrates how gender equality is a moral imperative and an effective strategy for economic growth."

"The ILO looks forward to continuing this important work through the expansion of GEAR to foster a more inclusive workforce and drive tangible improvements in productivity and competitiveness," he said.

Park Young Sik, ambassador of the Republic of Korea, Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the People's Republic of Bangladesh, commended the progress, adding: "Korea is proud to support Bangladesh in these vital Initiatives. The strides made here in gender equality inspire many." 

Leena Khan, labour attache, US Embassy Dhaka, said: "As graduates of the GEAR program, you will contribute to better working conditions, ensuring worker voices are heard, and improving employment opportunities for women. We recognize the program's work with governments, employers, workers, trade unions, and global brands to improve worker rights in the garment industry and to make the sector more competitive."

The event served as a platform for strategic discussions, potential collaborations, and policy advocacy for a more inclusive industry. 

The sessions covered themes from leadership development to skills enhancement, concluding with a fashion show by the GEAR graduates. 

Recommendations by the government and industry included the expansion of the GEAR initiative. 

The event was concluded following the fashion show by the garment workers who are GEAR graduates.

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