Women keep rolling garment factories’ wheels

It is said that female workers are more

sincere than males at the workplace and the country’s readymade garment (RMG)

sector is its glittering example. The women of Bangladesh are continuing

keeping rolling the wheels of its RMG factories.

The mothers and sisters keep operative the country’s economy by working

shoulder to shoulder with the male workers during this present global


Concerned said the country’s RMG industry started its journey nearly four

decades back on the basis of female workers.

The industry spread rapidly in Bangladesh due to availability of cheap

labour. Once, these women workers used to become victims of wage

discrimination. They also used to become victims of harassment and torture at

the workplaces frequently.

The female workers have to give life most in any accident as the working

atmosphere of many factories was not improved. However, this situation has

changed to some extent than the past.

According to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association

(BGMEA), the country earned US Dollar 11 crore in the 1984-85 fiscal year

(FY), but the income surged to $27.94 in the last FY.

The craftsmen behind this success in the sector are workers. According to

a survey conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 2013, the

participation of males and females in the RMG sector at that time was 43.14

percent and 56 percent respectively.

At that time, nearly 30 lakh people were involved in the sector. The

number now climbed to about 40 lakh. The rate of participation of males and

females is now almost equal. However, once the rate of females’ participation

was nearly 80 percent.

Everybody more or less acknowledges the contributions of women workers

most to this progress of the RMG sector in the last 37 years. The BGMEA

leaders speak about employment and empowerment of the huge number of females.

Though, the issue of absence of proper environment of work for the women

at the factories was raised at different times. Even big disasters like

Tazrin Fashion and Rana Plaza happened. But due to interference of the

present government after the incidents, the RMG sector turned around.

Besides, two alliances–Accord and Alliances– formed with foreign buyers

and brands have started inspecting the factories to improve their working


The government and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) too are

working to this end.

BGMEA’s former president Siddiqur Rahman said the Accord and Alliance

worked with 2,200 garment factories after the Rana Plaza collapse.

“We can now say that 2,200 factories are in compliances. But the number has

presently increased further. And there was a need to reform 500-600 factories

out of 1500 of the National Action Plan. The rest were reformed and rebuilt,”

he continued.

President of Bangladesh National Garments Workers Employees League Sirajul

Islam Roni said after the Rana Plaza tragedy, the infrastructural development

of Bangladesh’s RMG factories has been developed significantly.

“It can be said that most of the garment factories are now in compliance,

meaning that the working environment inside the factories and other security

has been improved,” he said.

Roni, however, regretted that the living standard of the workers is not

improved mentionably because their wages were not enhanced in comparison to

raising living costs.

The female garment workers are still facing some problems. Wages

discrimination and non implementation of six-month maternity leave among


Talking about the issue, BGMEA Vice-President Arshad Jamal said all

factory owners now ensured health safety of the workers. “A policy has been

formulated too in Bangladesh … the BGMEA is working with coordination to

build a women-friendly industry,” he said.

On the issue of wages discrimination of the women workers, Jamal said the

situation has been changed to a greater extent than the past. “If any problem

exists, it will be solved gradually,” he assured.

Official Research Cell of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Khandaker Golam

Moazzem said the female workers of the garment industry are making huge

contributions to the country’s economy and it’s a big recognition.

“But, against it (contributions), social evaluation and other facilities

of the women are yet to be ensured. Though, some minimum demands were

fulfilled, the qualitative changes didn’t take place to that extent… more

work will have to be done to this end,” the CPD official opined.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)