Women's participation in TUs still limited: Study

FE Report | Monday, 30 April 2018

Women workers' participation in the country's trade unions (TUs) and other platforms is still very limited despite their active role in labour rights movements at grassroots level, a study has revealed.
Loopholes in labour law, conflict of interests among co-workers and male counterparts' dominating attitude are key challenges to women's participation in labour rights organisations at desired level, it said.
Besides, the study said, female workers' responsibilities in household chores in addition to their respective workplaces, and sexual abuses by trade union leaders are also liable for holding them back.
The findings of the study titled 'Barriers to women's participation in trade unions and labour organisations' were revealed by Bangladesh Shrama Institute (BASHI) --Bangladesh Labour Institute-at a press conference held at the National Press Club on Sunday.
President of BASHI trustee board Shah Atiul Islam, its members Shabnam Hafiz, Farhana Afrin Tithi and General Secretary of Garment Workers Trade Union Centre Joly Talukdar, among others, attended the conference.
The study said both male and female workers encounter various types of impediments including threats from factory owners and physical assault, while attempting to get united to press home their demands.
"Female workers, however, face some particular difficulties which male counterparts don't come across," it added.
The first phase of the study was conducted among the representatives of 17 trade unions (TU), workers, TU leaders and experts.
According to the study, a woman worker gets very limited time to take part in TU, let alone possesses a leading position due to their responsibilities at workplaces and home.
Many women have claimed that they play a vital role in most of labour rights movements but they are deprived of key posts like president and vice president.
"The females are selected for less important posts in unions and federations though they have been repeatedly proving their efficiency since a long time," the study said.
Unfortunately, senior women leaders, sometimes, hold back the female workers' role in an organisation for their personal interests, it added.
Female workers are often physically abused by supervising staff or by coworkers in a factory, the study said, adding: "Unfortunately, women are also abused by the leaders and other activists of a TU, though it is supposed to protect them from any kinds of exploitations."
The workers surveyed in the study identified several sections of labour law including 23, 26, 27, 179 and 180 as responsible for averting the workers from a TU and conflicting against labour rights.
"Most of the labour leaders protested Section 179 which directs to form a TU with participation of at least 30 per cent of the total workers employed in a particular factory," the study said.
The study suggested change in social perspective, identifying the reasons behind female workers' sexual abuse and adopting a proper strategy to flourish women leadership.
Speaking on the occasion, Joly Talukdar said female workers' contribution to every sector including apparel industry has increased significantly.
"You will see that a large number of women activists are playing vital role in a movement to protect workers right, but the scenario, in terms of leading the organisation, is totally different," she said.

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