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Contributing to social transformation

Cultural stereotypes, lack of awareness about their rights and entitlements, education, communication and leadership skills, women workers affected severely at the workplace and community. They often face difficulties in collective bargaining arrangements and accessing their legal rights.

Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in the Industry (PSES) a project implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft fur InternationaleZusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Government is contributing to addressing this gap, through the initiative called “Empowering Women RMG Workers in Bangladesh” since June 2007 through four rights based partner NGOs: Agrajattra; Awaj Foundation; KarmojibiNari; and Organization for Women’s Development in Bangladesh (OWDEB).

pses

In cooperation with PSES, these NGOs have provided participatory trainings to more than 100,000 readymade garment workers (mostly women) on key elements of labor law 2006, leadership and problem solving skills through 45 training centers, known as Women’s Cafés, located near workers’ residences in Dhaka and Chittagong. They have also been providing workers with legal counseling on workplace and family issues.

The enhanced leadership skills of the female workers have contributed to improved worker-management relations, bringing positive changes in their lives and workplaces. More than 5,000 workplace labor disputes have been peacefully and fairly resolved through these trained workers.

Peer educator group leader Ruma says, “It was my dream to talk to my factory owner one day, but now my factory owner often calls me to resolve disputes in my factory.” Group leaders are helping for deepening their co-workers’ understanding of labor standards through training and interactive games. And there are more than 42,000 workers who speak similar stories about the changes they have brought in their workplaces and the community.
Akhi, another leader, has set up an informal help center for garments workers in the slum.  So far she has referred some 500 labor and family cases to organizations providing legal support in Bangladesh.

The Head of HR and Compliance of Urmi Group noted, “Trained workers of Awaj Foundation occupy the majority of the Participation Committee1members, and are deliberately helping the factory resolve exposed or Participation Committee Legitimate body for dispute resolution inside a factory, consisting of workers and management representatives who meet bi-monthly to talk about workplace issues in their factory as well as resolve them.
Potential disputes in a win-win approach. Female workers are found more understandable and legitimate in bargaining, and it is easier to reach in an acceptable solution.”

Shyamoli Majumder, Executive Director of OWDEB, states, “…in addition to the direct benefits, these initiatives have many indirect results… these Women Cafés, located near workers’ communities, are not only giving women a space for recreation, they also function as one-stop crisis centers. With the help of the legal advisors of the NGOs, trained women are also mediating family conflicts, thus addressing and preventing violence against women in their communities.”

Improved negotiation capacity and ability to generate income has increased women’s level of participation in decision – making in the community and at the workplace. These initiatives are also mutually contributing to women’s social empowerment by facilitating access to better-waged employment, career development, enhancement of women’s voice in the family, and enhanced access of women to social services.

Trainees have begun to influence marriage, unpaid family work sharing, and investment decisions. For many of the married women, their marital relationship has improved, and the threat of divorce and physical violence has decreased. The benefits go beyond immediate economic impacts. The women experience it as an opportunity for a more independent, confident and dignified experience, while social norms and cultural traditions are gradually being transformed.

for more information:

Ms. Mehzabin Ahmed, Social Compliance Advisor, PSES

E-mail: mehzabin.ahmed@giz.de

1Participation Committee: Legitimate body for dispute resolution inside a factory, consisting of workers and management representatives who meet bi-monthly to talk about workplace issues in their factory as well as resolve them.

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