It has been 2 years when #MeToo went viral, and it’s about time the Sexual Harassment in the Garment Industry got the attention it should have.
Clothes and shoe brand names can do a lot more to prevent and attend to gender-based violence in their supply chains, however initially, they must challenge how their examination or “social auditing” programs work to protect women.
Clothes factories or brand names frequently hire social auditors to analyze factory working conditions. However social audits mostly count on in-factory interviews with employees who might fear retaliation, typically leaving them inadequate for discovering work-related sexual advances.
In fact, lots of auditors I have talked to have noticed this same problem of audits.
Just recently, I spoke with an Indonesian social auditor who shared an interesting insight about a garment factory he was checking in main Java a number of years back. He discovered a note pad on the factory floor, and within its pages found a lady employee’s confidential note claiming that she was being sexually bothered or abused.
The auditor’s efforts to trace the note pad’s owners and motivate the employee to speak out were useless, he stated, showing this basic problem with recording unwanted sexual advances in the workplace.
The management asked him what “evidence” he had beyond the plaintiff’s statement and wanted to know the names of such plaintiffs.
They argued that the employee’s statement might not validate a “finding” of unwanted sexual advances in the audit report.
On the other hand, female employees who speak outside the factory property feel less nervous about retaliation, according to employees themselves, auditors, that Human Rights Watch talked to, confirmed this.
For instance, the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a global labor rights group, discovered proof of unwanted sexual advances after carrying out off-site interviews with employees for 3 factories in Lesotho that produced Levi’s and Kontoor’s.
Rola Abirmourched was one of the investigators, reported that “in spite of regular social audits by 3rd parties, unwanted sexual advances in the factories was widespread”.
The Lesotho examination stimulated the launch of an appeal process of Unwanted Sexual Harassment
For over a year, the WRC dealt with factory unions and 2 popular regional females’ rights companies – the Federation of Women Lawyers in Lesotho, and Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Education Trust-Lesotho – they tried to develop a program dealing with gender-based violence and harassment at work.
The factory management signed a lawfully binding contract with the unions, agreeing to honor and carry out the program.
The contract develops an independent examining body, to check out problems of unwanted sexual advances in accordance with Lesotho’s laws.
Levi’s, the Children’s Place, and Kontoor’s accepted money in regards to the program for 2 years.
This effort revealed some essential lessons. For one, confirming that regional women’s’ rights groups are vital, keeping in mind that the garment industry’s gender imbalance: most of union-management is male despite the fact that the garment employees themselves are primarily ladies.
It’s likewise essential to acknowledge the crucial function that unions and nongovernmental companies can play in establishing training programs, offering legal services, and assisting in access to therapy for gender-based violence and harassment.
“The anti-retaliation defenses, the lawfully binding nature of the program, and assistance from brand names were essential to the program’s success”, stated Libakiso Matlho, nationwide director of Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Education Trust-Lesotho.
Programs by female’ rights groups to fight unwanted sexual advances are frequently damaged by factories’ retaliation or failure to hold criminals liable.
Worldwide brand names would be wise to watch how the Lesotho arrangement integrates crucial functions of the landmark treaty versus violence and harassment at the workplace, now embraced by the International Labour Organisation previously this year.
Under the Lesotho contract, for instance, the factories’ policies versus gender-based violence and harassment, likewise apply to its providers and third-party professionals.
The contract has strong anti-retaliation securities also.
As garment employees have a hard time to getting respect at work, international clothes brand names need to set up strong worker-driven avoidance and reaction programs that combine trustworthy regional ladies’ rights groups and regional unions, instead of depending upon social audits.
Brand names can suppress Sexual Harassment In The Garment Industry by establishing programs that genuinely empower employees.