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Women workers, unite!

Half the world’s workforce are women who are unpaid, underpaid, unrecognised, harassed and abused - and they are fighting back.

Many industries, where women make up the vast majority of the workforce, are controlled by large transnational companies, which pay the world’s lowest wages and have the worst records for workplace protection. These companies are often unconcerned with workers safety during long working hours, and rarely consider protecting staff on the way to and from work.

Industries such as electronics, toys, entertainment, garment or fast-fashion and agriculture are all repeat offenders when it comes to unsafe working conditions, lacking even minimum protection to women workers who make up a large portion of the workforce.

States also have responsibilities, not just as an employer but as a regulator of industry and enforcer of workers' rights. States must ensure women working in the public, private and the informal sectors enjoy the protections guaranteed in labour laws. They must regulate, enforce and punish all employers who violate labour laws and women’s rights.

We have long reported on workers being denied minimum wage, secure employment, maternity or sick pay, injury insurance and compensation; being prevented from forming unions and collective bargaining and having no effective mechanisms to report violence, harassment or abuse, without risking losing their jobs. These are violations of workers’ rights and must stop.

Women working in the informal sector, such as street vendors, domestic and home-based workers receive little or no employment benefits and are even more susceptible to violence. Women workers in these sectors must be guaranteed their rights.

Women also take on the huge burden of caring for elderly relatives and children and doing domestic chores. Women working at home, overwhelmed by unpaid care and domestic work, are being prevented from even entering the workforce and their economic security is nonexistent. This has to stop.

States must meet their responsibilities to provide public services such as water, health, elder and child care to lessen women’s burden of care and domestic work.

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Woman sewing at a garment factory in Bangladesh
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80% of garment workers in Bangladesh have experienced or witnessed sexual violence and harassment at work

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Jackia Begum sustained long-term injuries in the Rana Plaza disaster and her part time job working with handicrafts now brings in very little income. She says: “The memories will stay with me until my death.”
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Six years on from Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza tragedy, one in five survivors’ health is deteriorating

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Women from the Rights Café in Bangladesh demanding labour rights
Opinion

100 years fighting for decent working conditions and labour equality

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Rahima, with her sewing machine
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"The dress you are wearing to look beautiful is made of our sweat and tears"

Read more