Originally posted in bigd.bracu.ac.bd on 2020
This study will aim to examine the role that women are playing in the COVID-19 crisis from two angles. It will first look into the role that women trade union leaders are playing in the ongoing negotiations with the different stakeholders in the readymade garments (RMG) sector in tackling the pandemic. The study will also look into the increasing instances of domestic violence as a result of lockdown and stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic period.
Researchers: Farah Huq, Pragyna Mahpara, Iffat Jahan Antara, and Samia Kalim Syed from BIGD
Blogs: Quarantine in Home or Prison? Domestic Violence in the time of COVID-19 and what it holds for Bangladesh
As part of the on-going research on Sustaining Power for Women’s Rights that BIGD is doing in collaboration with IDS with ESRC support, the team is studying the role of women trade union leaders in sustaining women’s rights to decent wages and working conditions in the RMG sector. Firstly women’s employment and livelihoods in the RMG sector are under threat in the COVID-19 crisis and various negotiations are going on between trade unions, government, employers and buyers on how to deal with the situation. We will be tracking the reporting of the role the women trade union leaders are playing in the present situation. This will be supplemented by the interviews of trade union leaders.
Secondly, international reports have shown that in the situation of social isolation and lock down incidences of domestic violence tend to increase. We will be tracking media reports of domestic violence over the coming months to see whether there is any change in the reporting of such incidences as one of the cases of the research is looking at the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act of 2010 and the resistances it faces.
Secondary research has been conducted by media tracking of international and national media sources, as well as publicly available information on other platforms such as social media.
Findings and Recommendations
The first round of the media tracking exercise for domestic violence showed that international media was reporting on the increase in domestic violence as a result of COVID-19, but there was a lack of visibility in national press. The UN Secretary General issued a warning against this increase, urging governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19. In the national context, there are many challenges to reporting domestic violence cases and interestingly enough, fear of infection is has been a trigger for abuse in one instance. There has only been limited information on the initiatives adapted by different organisations to tackle domestic violence.
The first round of the media tracking exercise of the COVID-19 crisis impact on RMG wages and employment, outlines the timeline and activities that took place as the crisis unfolded. Closing of factories and job losses started in early March 2020 due to order cancellations triggered by the Corona outbreak in other countries. A lack of consensus regarding factory closures within trade unions and RMG owners with some unions and owners wanting to keep factories open and other wanting to close, and between these actors and the Government, caused uncertainty, confusion, and worry amongst workers. In addition to this, wage payments were delayed due to backlog in payments by employers and lack of banking facilities and mobile wallets for workers. The situation was further worsened as the job security under the layoff provisions were seen to be insufficient for workers’ livelihoods security as workers would receive only half of the basic wage for the first 45 days, followed by a quarter of the basic wages with any subsequent extensions. However, national trade unions have been influencing international unions and fair trade bodies, putting pressure on international buyers, which led to the crisis being assuaged to an extent.
For the domestic violence component, the audience will be the NGO Coalition for Domestic Violence and Ministry of Women and Children Affairs.
For the trade union activities in safeguarding jobs and ensuring wages, our audience will be the trade union leaders, MoLE, MoF and BGMEA.