International Women's Day 2018

Beyond the Sewing Machine: Photographs highlight women’s empowerment in the garment sector

Press release | 07 March 2018
The work of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in collaboration with the Netherlands, Canada and United Kingdom to support the empowerment of women working in the Bangladesh ready-made garment industry has been captured in an exhibition of photographs entitled ‘Beyond the Sewing Machine’ held to mark International Women’s Day 2018.

The event, which took place at the residence of the Ambassador of the Royal Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bangladesh on 7 March 2018 highlighted progress made by the ILO’s garment sector programme as it works with the government, employers and workers to create a more gender inclusive working environment in the RMG sector.

Opening the exhibition, H.E Ambassador Leoni Cuelenaere said, “The RMG industry has created a huge opportunity for many women to forge better lives for themselves and their families. This International Women’s Day we celebrate the contribution of women to the RMG sector and highlight our efforts to help them meet their full potential."

The work of the programme captured in the exhibition included promoting women’s moving up to supervisory positions, supporting their involvement in Participation and Safety Committees as well as creating better awareness amongst both women and men of what constitutes workplace violence. In addition, the exhibition highlighted work carried out to help make the operations of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) more gender responsive, as well as support provided to victims of the Rana Plaza collapse.

Speaking at the event Snehal Soneji, Officer in Charge of ILO Bangladesh said, “Women make up the majority of the RMG sector workforce, yet often face many barriers within the workplace. The actions of the RMG programme captured in this exhibition show how many of these barriers can be overcome not only for the benefit of women workers but for the industry itself.”

A number of the workers who appear in the photographs also joined the event. They shared their experiences and how with the support of the ILO/IFC Better Work Bangladesh programme they have been empowered to take on greater roles in their workplaces.

ILO has sought to improve working conditions in the RMG sector since 2013. A second phase of its RMG programme commenced in July 2017. Gender plays an important role in the initiative which seeks to create a more inclusive RMG industry, one in which women’s voices are heard; where the workplace is safe and compliant for both men and women, and the industry is regulated by gender-responsive institutional policies and practices.