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Dhaka Tribune

Female RMG workers stress education to attain full potentials

Update : 09 Mar 2014, 07:34 PM

Most female readymade garments workers have identified lack of safety, access to education, unawareness of labour rights and health insecurity as the major hurdles in attaining their highest potential in the sector.

The workers shared their experience and recommendations at a programme titled – “Lives Beyond Machines - A reflection on priorities for women in the RMG sector” -- to celebrate International Women’s Day held at the capital’s Cirdap auditorium yesterday.

Jointly organised by CARE Bangladesh, the European Union, Austrian Development Cooperation and Sheva Nari O Shishu Kallyan Kendra, the programme was attended by around a hundred RMG workers. 

During the programme, the participants also stressed the need for prioritising education to reduce gender biasness.

A study, conducted on 256 workers by CARE Bangladesh, revealed that around 39% of them believe high posts are allotted only for men, while 40% identified misbehaviour of supervisors as the reason behind their dissatisfaction at work.

The study also showed that 79% of workers were employed without an appointment letter and 75% live in unhealthy conditions. The study also concluded that 42% of labours experienced a fire incident at least once during their career. Four workers are members of a trade union, however, their participation in the unions remain negligible.

“The government should introduce evening classes so that we can have access to an education. It will not hamper our work,” said Manisha, an RMG worker.

Another worker, Mariam, said: “There should be a committee in every garment factory with at least 30 female workers. Then, others female labours will be able to share their problems easily.”

“Raising voices against violence would be easier if there was a united female committee,” she added.

Demanding that garment owners provide housing for women to ensure their safety, another female worker told the Dhaka Tribune: “We are contributing to their factories, so why cannot they do something for our wellbeing?”

EU Ambassador to Bangladesh William Hanna: “Before we buy a shirt, we should think of the women who stitched it, who should be treated well at the work place.”

“Bangladesh has been enjoying quota free access for all exports in Europe, which had been given to improve the livelihood of the workers. This [privilege} should not be exploited. This is a clear message,” he added.

“I heard some factories are not giving the minimum wages. The government should inspect this,” he said.

UN Women Country Representative Christine Hunter said: “Less education, safety standards and sexual harassment are the big challenges of the RMG sector in Bangladesh. The country has failed to meet one of the Millennium Development Goals -- decent work for women.”

“It is very important that the voices of women are heard,” she added. 

The study was conducted under ‘Solidarity and Empowerment through education, motivation and awareness’, a project of CARE Bangladesh.

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