The War For Women’s Labour Rights

Women’s rights in the garment and textile industry

Women bring life to this world in so many ways, literally and metaphorically. Yet, there is no respect from the opposite sex, it is plain to see in far too many situations. Within the garment and textile industry there are no labour rights for women, there is no argument about it, only facts.

garment workers in bangladesh

Young Bangladesh women in a garment factory. Image credit: Naimul

Mexico and South America are well known for their factories which ” import materials and equipment duty-free for assembly or manufacturing for re-export. In order to entice these kinds of companies, many Central American governments give their owners tax exemptions and turn a blind eye to the working conditions. …women working in El Salvador’s “maquilas”, or sweatshops, where women earn less than men at the cardboard or textile factories,… Working conditions are oppressive with women experiencing intimidation from their own union bosses and constant “vigilance” from their supervisors, who refuse to allow the women bathroom breaks and constantly order them to work harder and faster.”

women garment workers in dhaka

Women garment workers protesting in Dhaka

“Nearly 46 million people around the world are living as slaves, forced to work in factories, mines and farms, sold for sex, trapped in debt bondage or born into servitude, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index by rights group Walk Free Foundation.”

It is well known that the majority of this population (70 – 80%) is compiled of women, ages 5 (possibly younger) and up. Is it just me, or does anyone else out there find this absolutely absurd that this is continuing to happen without reform?!

garment factory el salvador

Factory workers make sportswear for a U.S. brand at a maquila plant in the San Bartolo free trade zone in the city of Ilopango in eastern El Salvador. The factory employs 350 workers on each eight-hour shift, 80 percent of them women, who earn minimum wage. Image Credit: Edgar Romero/IPS

Being that I am not from South America, I find it difficult to wonder if there is anything I can do as a consumer in Canada to help these women. The unfortunate thing about the average consumer is that they have no idea just how powerful their decision to buy a particular item truly is. This is how to help from my end of the situation, by being a conscious consumer and learning about the production of clothing, where it comes from, who makes it, how it’s made, can impact the way things are purchased.

Imagine if people took 3 seconds to read the label on a piece of clothing to find out where it came from, it could change the lives of billions for the better. When I reject clothing that has been produced in countries like South America, Bangladesh, and China, it feels good to know that I’m doing something to help. I will only purchase an item from these particular places it if it is something that will truly benefit the people who produced it in the first place.

This is knowledge that I will teach my children. I will teach them about the mother’s, sister’s, and daughter’s who live in horrible conditions, including mistreatment, so that they may see what is wrong in order to do what is right.

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