Myanmar female garment workers in fear of violence

Business involved in Myanmar’s garment industry should take steps to ensure better safety and welfare of female employees, a new report recommends, as findings suggest women workers are in fear of rape and robbery.

The report, ‘Women, work and violence in Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan,’ conducted by IMC Worldwide, University of Portsmouth and the International Centre for Research between November 2015 and March 2017, focused on the interaction between women, work and violence in Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.

Supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the research found that reforms are required to reduce violence against women and alleviate social obstacles faced by women in the workforce, particularly middle-income women.

Data on the labour market indicates that textiles, clothing and footwear industries are expanding massively, with a disproportionate number of women employed in low-paid production line roles. In Myanmar, the sector provides around 750,000 jobs, and it accounts for 10% of the country’s exports and 44% of Yangon’s industrial exports, the report notes.

While trade unions have been permitted since 2012, the report argues that poverty itself remains a serious obstacle for unionization.
The report highlights that female garment workers in Yangon have reported feeling physically unsafe while travelling to and from work – and issue that has an impact on the industry’s productivity.

“Garment workers in Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar area stated they felt very unsafe crossing and walking the boundary road between the factories and the neighbouring community,” the report explains. “The fear in many cases was recorded as extreme, with acknowledged implications for work productivity.”

One interviewee told researchers: “The fear starts from the moment I get to work, I worry how will I find my journey home. As soon as it gets dark my anxiety rises and I am definitely no longer productive in my work.”

According to the report, women report high levels of anxiety related to the work commute. Fear of rape and robbery are extremely common amongst garment workers, who must work long shifts and have to travel during hours of darkness. Women also reported that they suffer from depression, largely as a result of long working hours and poor working conditions.

“In the garment sector, notions of women’s ‘nimble fingers’ keep them locked into low paid production line work rather than moving into management or supervisory roles,” the report adds. “Interviewees in the garment sector report that, despite the predominance of women in the factories, the 10% of employees who are male are inevitably given higher status, better-paid job roles. Similarly, middle class women are vocal about the strength of the glass ceiling in Myanmar.”

The report lays out a number of recommendations, including greater engagement with women’s organisations to help end violence, stronger codes of conducts, and the necessity of trade unions to protect women against harassment.

Recommendations were also made for strong peer groups, a commitment to national gender equality frameworks, and accessible, affordable and responsible justice.

Source: Just- Style

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