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Empowering Women in the Garment Industry: Challenges and Triumphs – Impact of Fashion

Empowering Women in the Garment Industry: Challenges and Triumphs – Impact of Fashion

Low- and middle-income nations (LMICs), like Vietnam, the Philippines, Bangladesh, China, and India, have become more important to fast fashion as a means to boost profits. The term for this kind of operation is called "offshoring.". With this operation, many women have gained work opportunities in these countries, but the conditions in which they work are far from comfortable and equal. The job situation is unstable and uncertain for many of these women. The working conditions have even been compared to slavery. The worst forms of exploitation in the fashion industry have emerged because of the globalisation of supply chains & the immense demand for fast fashion. The fashion industry, which appears to be actively addressing feminist issues, should carefully assess the consequences of hiring many women in an unregulated labour market. 

As we celebrate International Women's Day, it's essential to shine a light on the unrecognised heroes of the fashion world—women garment workers. Their struggles, triumphs, and the intense challenges they face in the industry are often overlooked. In this article, we try to explore the voices of these resilient women, the discriminatory practices they navigate due to fast fashion practices, and the strides they are making towards a fair and just work environment. 

In the factories of Bangladesh, a female industrial worker sheds light on the challenges faced by male workers. When a male employee has a complaint or request, the factory needs to hear it, whereas when a female employee has a request, it is simpler to ignore and dismiss. This disparity in treatment has resulted in factories favouring women workers and is the reason why there is a notable absence of men in the garment industry.

The global garment industry paints a stark picture of gender disparities, with over 70% of female garment workers in China, 85% in Bangladesh, and 90% in Cambodia. These statistics reveal a systemic issue that extends beyond borders. When women dare to speak up, they often face scorn, repression, and, in extreme cases, physical violence or death, as seen in Cambodia. 

Despite these challenges, female workers are rallying together to address the industry's difficulties. The power of collective bargaining through trade unions becomes crucial in securing fair wages and safe working conditions. By uniting their voices, these women provide a formidable and lawful means of advocating for their rights, empowering even the shyest voices among them. 

But what can we do? 

The reality is that by buying into fast fashion, we unintentionally help sustain a system that exploits and degrades some of the most defenceless people on Earth. Relying on fast fashion firms' hollow claims and voluntary actions does not yield a workable solution. What are your next moves?

  • Show your support for groups like Labour Behind the Label that fight for employees' rights when their right to organise is infringed upon. Holding brands and suppliers responsible for abuses is essential to guaranteeing a fair and ethical workplace.
  • Do not support fast fashion companies or other firms that cause labour exploitation or environmental damage. Think about using what you already own, looking into thrift stores, or opting for sustainable labels instead of fast fashion.  
  • Make your voice heard, since it has great power. The combined efforts of citizens can have an impact in many areas. You may make a difference by contacting lawmakers by phone or email and asking companies to support new legislation openly. Shared campaign materials on social media are one example of a modern strategy that may impact change and shape public opinion. 

As we honour women on International Women's Day, let's not forget the women behind our clothes—the garment workers. By understanding their challenges, supporting their collective voices, and advocating for fair practices, we contribute to the ongoing journey towards a more equitable and just global garment industry. 

The Revivas believes in supporting companies that protect and nurture employees. We are proud to work with ethical brands, honouring the garment workers. We have gathered a selection of our female-founded brands. 

 Support female-founded brands & Discover Our selection of female-founded brands on this International Women’s Day. 

References

Gender: Women workers mistreated (2013) Clean Clothes Campaign. Available at: https://cleanclothes.org/issues/gender (Accessed: 04 March 2024). 

Exploitation or emancipation? women workers in the garment industry (2015) Exploitation or emancipation? Women workers in the garment industry : Fashion Revolution. Available at: https://www.fashionrevolution.org/exploitation-or-emancipation-women-workers-in-the-garment-industry/ (Accessed: 04 March 2024). 

The women who make your clothes (2024) Labour Behind the Label. Available at: https://labourbehindthelabel.org/the-women-who-make-your-clothes/ (Accessed: 04 March 2024). 

The impact of fast fashion on garment workers (2023) Good On You. Available at: https://goodonyou.eco/impact-fast-fashion-garment-workers/ (Accessed: 04 March 2024). 

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