A Lost Revolution?

REPORT | 5 April 2012

Many brands buying from Bangladesh have positioned themselves as frontrunners on CSR. Nevertheless Swedwatch notices that women in the industry face basic human rights violations on a daily basis. So are their children.

Bangladesh’s thriving garment industry is built upon women, who constitute 80 percent of the workforce. This report shows that a number of human rights are violated as a result of low wages and long working hours at the textile factories. The textile industry tends to reinforce poverty among workers rather than improve their living situation. Poverty, malnutrition, prolonged separation from the children and living in slums is what life looks like for the three million textile workers in Bangladesh who sew our clothes.

Despite considerable overtime women working in the textile industry do not earn enough to afford nutritious food, medicine, sanitary protection or adequate accommodation. Women are subjected to harassment and sexual assault in the overcrowded slum areas and on their way to and from work. After 12-hour shifts in the factory the women must then carry out domestic chores at home. Many women live separated from their children against their will due to the long working days and inadequate childcare.

The protection of human rights in Bangladesh is lacking. The UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights encourage companies to uphold international standards in spite of weak governance and in this case companies must send clearer signals to local authorities and the Bangladeshi Government and demand greater efforts and higher wages for all textile workers. The companies’ own initiatives must also be broader as the life situations of these women are linked to their work and the low wages.

When researching the report Swedwatch spent months in Dhakas slum areas to portray the living conditions of the textile workers for Swedwatch. This resulted in a film with the same title as the report. The film highlights the findings in the report and gives an insight into the everyday lives of the female textile workers.