“Women workers are silenced, in the factories and at home, through violence or the threats of violence, by means of fear — of being abused at work, of losing our jobs. We face sexual harassment. We are told we are worthless; we shouldn’t speak; we shouldn’t be leaders.” -Kalpona Akter
Women at Work
Paid employment for women is now globally recognized as beneficial to development. Most export-oriented industries rely on the skill and work ethic of women workers. In turn, state actors rely on these women-dominated sectors to attract investment and spur economic growth, which often goes towards paying down debts incurred by corrupt governments.
In industries where workers are primarily women, but factory owners and managers are overwhelmingly men, gender is an important aspect of social relations, power and control. It is often women workers who face the worst abuses, including poverty wages, gender-based violence, and reprisals for speaking up to improve substandard conditions at work. Together, we can make this moment a turning point toward dignity and justice for women workers everywhere.
Women who speak up about gender-based violence and poor working conditions face retaliation and risk losing their livelihoods. Women who organize to demand better treatment or try to negotiate for a safe and decent workplace risk violent reprisals. Women organizers in Bangladesh have been brutally beaten to the point of hospitalization, and in Cambodia protesting garment workers have been fired on by police. Yet several studies in the US show that this abuse is not unique to developing countries. Worldwide, between 40 and 50 per cent of women report experiencing unwanted physical contact, sexual advances or other forms of harassment and abuse at work.
Violence against women is a global epidemic: 1 in 3 women across the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime – that’s one billion women. We must rise up to stop this! For more statistics on violence against women worldwide, see here.
The Change We Need
This movement challenges institutions, governments and corporations that create and enable cycles of poverty and violence that disproportionately affect women. We defend the rights of working women to earn living wages in safe conditions, and to freely organize without fear of violence or reprisal.
Join us in rising up for what working women need – SAFETY, VOICE, and a LIVING WAGE!
Together we will call for:
- Safe working environments, including an end to violence and sexual harassment at work, paid sick leave, safe and decent workplaces, and adequate compensation in case of injury or death on the job.
- A voice at work so that women don’t fear retaliation when they form and lead trade unions, or speak out for their rights and safety at work.
- Living wages and equal pay for equal work so that women can afford to meet basic needs for themselves and their families.
Over the past four years, activists across the globe have risen up to demand an end to violence against women and girls as part of the global One Billion Rising movement. This year One Billion Rising’s theme is “Solidarity Against the Exploitation of Women. Rise! Disrupt! Connect!” As part of this campaign we are lifting up the voices and demands of women workers, who face sexual harassment, physical violence and deplorable conditions across the world.
You can you get involved by organizing within your community around an issue affecting local women workers. Support an ILO Convention on gender-based violence – reach out to your government to demand their support, and learn more ways to support the campaign here. Urge global corporations to pay living wages and ensure safe working conditions. Share your event or action focused on women workers’ rights planned anytime during February 14th (V-Day) to March 8th (International Women’s Day) with sarah [at] ilrf.org and post it directly here.