Even though the country's garment workforce consists of a large number of females and they actively take part in rights demonstrations, representation of females in leadership positions in trade unions and organisations is extremely poor, said a labour rights organisation yesterday.
The organisation, Bangladesh Shrama Institute, in a qualitative survey also found that sexual harassment in the organisations, patriarchal mindset and excessive workload at women's home and at workplaces are the primary impediments to their reaching top positions at these organisations.
The institute organised a press conference yesterday at Jatiya Press Club to disclose the outcome of their survey that was conducted on the garment sector over the last six months.
The surveyors took long interviews, held focus group discussions and heard case studies of a total of 28 people, said Farhana Afrin Tithi, a member of the institute.
Tithi said after speaking with representatives of 15 to 20 trade unions and organisations, they only found one organisation that has female representation in its top leadership.
Female garment workers have to work both at home and at their workplaces and therefore they do not have the time to involve themselves in any other matter, she said.
Citing opinions given by interviewees, Tithi said women have proved their leadership capacity time and again during past movements, but they were not given important positions in the organisations. “The perception that only males are eligible for leadership positions is responsible for this situation.”
She said it is a common phenomenon that female workers often become victims of sexual harassment by top officials and their male co-workers.
“But it is very much frustrating when leaders of the organisations, which are supposed to raise [their] voice against sexual harassment, harass female workers sexually,” she alleged.
Citing the survey titled “Labour Force Survey - 2016/17”, Tithi said the overall labour force participation rate is 58.2 percent. Of them, male participation rate is 80.5 percent while female participation rate is 36.3 percent. “We have to think why female participation rate is so low.”
In order to remedy the situation, the institute stressed the need for changing social attitude towards women and ironing out an appropriate strategy.
When asked whether the “small sample” of only 28 case studies should be sufficient to portray the picture in the entire garment sector, Priscilla Raj, president of the executive committee of the institute, said larger sampling is not required for the qualitative survey that they have conducted.
Joly Talukder, general secretary of Garment Workers' Trade Union Centre and Shah Atiul Islam, president of the trustee board of the institute, spoke among others.