The online event aimed to inspire more businesses to take action to address gender-based violence and harassment in garment supply chains by highlighting tools which already exist to support them. It followed the successful Business of Women at Work event held in Phnom Penh in late 2019.
Tackling gender-based violence and harassment in the garment industry: why now?
In recent years there has been an increased focus on this issue within the garment industry, from acknowledgment of the prevalence of sexual harassment in supply chains to research estimating the cost this has for business. The new ILO Convention 190 sets the global standard for laws to prevent violence and harassment in the world of work, which many governments around the world are expected to follow.
However, there is potential for the economic impact of COVID-19 on suppliers to exacerbate violence and harassment within workplaces and halt positive gains. COVID-19 has already had a devastating impact on women garment workers. It is therefore more important than ever for businesses to ensure they have measures in place to protect women to ensure they are not pushed out of the workforce altogether.
During the Learning Summit, speakers highlighted the challenges suppliers face in being transparent about incidents of harassment, fearing this could have a negative impact on compliance and therefore orders. The overall message was that action on this issue is the best form of compliance, with robust systems highly preferable to underreporting cases. Implementing comprehensive solutions can actually lead to business benefits in an increasingly competitive market by attracting and retaining the best workers, which in turn will help companies retain customers.
Tools for addressing gender-based violence and harassment in the garment sector
The Learning Summit highlighted three tools which can support those wishing to lead change within their businesses.
- Standard Operating Procedures: CARE and Better Work have led development of Standard Operating Procedures for Addressing Violence and Harassment in the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Manufacturing Industry (SOPs). The SOPs provide a clear set of good practice procedures that all businesses in the supply chain can follow to address GBVH, in alignment with ILO C190. Any garment sector business can use and adapt the SOPs to help define their internal strategies and actions. An initial overview of these SOPs can be accessed here, with the full set of standards and guidance documents to be published in the coming weeks.
- STOP Sexual Harassment Prevention Package: Since 2017 the STOP project has been scaling up efforts in South-East Asia to protect women from harassment as part of CARE’s Made by Women strategy, which aims to ensure women garment workers are respected at work and have their voices heard. STOP’s Sexual Harassment Prevention package provides garment factories with proven tools and engagement materials such as model workplace policies, complaint response processes, implementation guidance and interactive worker sessions. This approach is having an impact: evaluations show more factories have effective response mechanisms and workers feel safe to report incidents, while this video highlights how STOP has helped an HR manager in Cambodia improve the factory environment.
- Gender Equity Self-Diagnostic Tool: Developed by ICRW, the Self-Diagnostic Tool is a publicly available online questionnaire which enables brands to assess the current state of gender integration within supplier facilities. It generates a personalised scorecard which can be used to guide discussions and planning. Gender-based violence and harassment is one of a wide range of sections covered by the tool. Speaker Allie Glinski also noted the strong relationship between improved gender equity within workplaces, prevention of harassment and improved response.
These tools are not either/or; each one can complement the others as companies take action to suit their unique workplaces and supply chains. For example, the Gender Equity Self-Diagnosis Tool may identify sexual harassment prevention as an area for improvement by a particular supplier factory; the SOPs can be used by the brand and supplier to identify good practice and understand what needs to be done to improve; and, if the factory needs some support, the brand or supplier can request CARE’s support through the STOP Sexual Harassment Prevention Package to help factory management set up those good practice policies and systems in practice.
Gender-based violence and harassment is an issue which companies cannot ignore if they want to create a sustainable future for their business. As Deitz emphasized:
“Gender-based violence and harassment is a critical issue for business and preventing it must be a core component how businesses and the industry as a whole work to recover from the pandemic…. There cannot be and will not be an inclusive recovery from COVID unless and until we address workplace harassment.”
Above: This timelapse video shows some of the main discussions as they progressed during the event.
Want to find out more?
A full recording of the session can be found on the event website at https://www.gbvhlearningsummit2021.org/.
The Learning Summit was jointly organized by CARE and Better Work with the support of the Australian Government.
Graphics Recorded by Sonaksha Iyengar (www.sonaksha.com).