What is GAA and What does it Aim?
The Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA) a 5-year joint project (2016-2020) funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Netherland, aims to promote equal rights and opportunities for girls and young women. The project in Bangladesh is being implemented by INCIDIN Bangladesh with the support of Plan International Bangladesh. GAA in Bangladesh aims to promote equitable and safe working environment for the young women working in the readymade garments manufacturing sector.
How does it work in Bangladesh?
INCIDIN Bangladesh is implementing the GAA within a multi-stakeholder alliance of RMG manufacturers, business associations, brands, buyers, trade unions, government agencies, mass media, human rights organizations, women’s rights organizations and c s. It a through promoting positive initiatives of RMG manufacturers in promoting safe and equitable working environment for the woman-workers. GAA identifies and celebrates the business leaders for their efforts to counter the prevalence of gender-based violence and discrimination.
Where the changes need to take place?
To ensure that the women working in the RMG sector are having an respectable status with equity within a safe environment- changes need not only take place at the level of business-rule setters such as BGMEA, BKMEA and Chambers etc. or at the level of level of governance involving the laws, Ministries and different committees etc. The actual changes need to come:
- At the level of factories (logistics and management practices)
- At the level of trade unions (awareness and capacity)
- At the level of workers (awareness and access)
- At community sphere (housing, transport and communication)
- Factory Inspection (brands, buyers and factory inspectors)
- At the level of capacity (training modules and training initiatives)
What are the Changes We Propose?
Through dialogue with different stakeholders including the women working in the RMG sectors the agenda of change is revealed to be as follows:
• The concerns are of two forms- “empowerment” and “protection” - thus developing a respectable social and professional image of the women as RMG workers is essential.
- This can be attained through building an image of the factories as an institution that recognizes and protects its woman-workers from violence and violations. The follow-up on guidelines to address on job sexual harassment can ensure greater gender based protection (complain box, committee and follow-up actions etc.) leading to better concentration, higher productivity and better communication. This can be sustainable only when the business actors adopt gender responsive management policies while the managers and executives adopt a set of woman friendly equitable and safe management practices (introduction of female managers, respectful language, cooperative toward special needs etc.). This may call for a code of conduct that protects and promotes women at workplace.
- To challenge the ‘glass ceiling’ that keeps them stuck at the lowest rank at work, the women workers need to have access to special on-job training programs. Along with work related training of workers, there is a need of specific training (leadership, communication, financial management, heath and self-awareness etc.) targeting the women workers’ ability to rise through the ranks from operators to supervisors. Already suppliers of different brands are implementing such programs. Their experience reveals that women can become floor level supervisors which reduces risks of gender based violence and improve women’s profile and status at workplace. This type of training and growth options also contribute in higher productivity and lower the number of absentee - leading to higher efficiency and lower cost of production.
GAA offers a crest of recognition and factory level stickers to the factory managements which have adopted on job equity and protection policies/practices or are collaborating with GAA to attain such changes. GAA develops and presents these business cases to inform other the managers and business leaders.
• There is a need of improving the woman-workers condition of safety and security at their residential locations a well. A stronger affinity of the industrial institutions with the woman-workers can play a crucial role in reducing their vulnerability to gender-based violence, by aiding them with greater social prestige. This also calls for investment in social infrastructure (housing, transportation, etc.) by the stakeholders such as the RMG investors, government and brands etc. Already there are sporadic experiences and good practices regarding ensuring safety of the workers at residence and on the move.
GAA celebrates the success of the pioneers in this field and lobbies with the government for extending facilitation to any such actions by the business that contributes in social protection of the woman-workers.
• To ensure that the managers of future are trained to respect and ensure safety of the woman-workers the training and education programs in the field of business management need to include relevant issues. In this regards, GAA works with the training institutes, projects and programs that are delivering training for the existing and future managers of the RMG sector. GAA offers recognition, promotion and showcasing of gender responsive management training.