The RMG sector has been, without a doubt, the primary engine of the formidable economic growth Bangladesh has experienced in the past few years, contributing over 80% of the country’s export income.
And behind the success of the ready-made garments industry lies the tireless work put in by women.
Female workers make up some 55% of the 4.2 million-strong RMG workforce in Bangladesh, so it is safe to say women are the key drivers behind the industry’s success; and yet, when it comes to ensuring the rights and safety of women in the workplace, regrettably, we are lagging behind.
A new report brings to light the dismal truth that women face high levels of sexual, verbal, and physical harassment in the workplace at the hands of their supervisors.
Furthermore, women were not getting their proper due as stipulated by the existing labour laws.
There are provisions in the labour laws for employment contract, rest and leave, work environment, welfare, social protection, and welfare representation, and some degree of violation of the provisions was found among almost all workers surveyed.
Most of the women surveyed were overworked, with little chance to enjoy weekends or days off.
It is a fact that women have gender-specific needs at the workplace, and for the most part, these are not being met -- day care facilities are not available at workplaces, there is no way to receive special treatment for menstrual health, and the provisions for maternity leave or pregnancy-related complications remain woefully inadequate.
The RMG industry has achieved some marvellous things for this country, so should we not demand that the women who make it all possible get their due?
After all, economic growth goes hand in hand with gender equality and women’s rights. It is time we held women’s rights and safety in the workplace to a higher standard.