Garment workers in Bangladesh Jonathan Saruk/Getty Images

Empowering Bangladesh’s Female Garment Workers

While Bangladesh's textile trade has put money in women’s purses and challenged a patriarchal society to evolve, economic empowerment has not greatly improved gender equality and female wellbeing. On the contrary, women with jobs in the country’s largest industry are now imperiled on two fronts.

DHAKA – For four decades, the garment industry has powered Bangladesh’s economy and put more people to work than any other sector. Women in particular have benefited from this hiring boom, and today, a majority of the industry’s four million employees are female.

But while the textile trade has put money in women’s purses and challenged a patriarchal society to evolve, economic empowerment has not greatly improved gender equality and female wellbeing. On the contrary, women with jobs in Bangladesh’s largest industry are now imperiled on two fronts – at home and at work.

While much has been written about exploitation in the garment industry, there is a paucity of data on the health and safety implications for women in this sector. Our organization, icddr,b (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh), is working to change this. In a series of recent studies, we explored the health and welfare issues – both physical and emotional – faced by women who produce clothing that they will never be able to afford.

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