The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) yesterday jointly launched a training initiative to get more women in supervisory roles in Bangladesh's garment sector, reports The Daily Star.
The initiative—Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR)—was introduced at an International Women's Day reception, hosted by the Canadian high commission at the residence of the High Commissioner in Dhaka, Benoit Prefontaine.
Rolled out in 2016, the programme has made significant strides in raising women's economic potential, according to a statement from the ILO Dhaka office.
“I would slowly but surely like to rise from my current position as a supervisor to a line chief, then an assistant production manager and finally become a production manager,” said Popy Aktar, a GEAR-trained supervisor who works for Sparrow Apparels Ltd in Gazipur.
To date, GEAR has trained 144 female workers, 58 of whom are now in supervisory roles. Impact assessment shows that lines led by GEAR-trained females experienced an average increase of 5 percent in efficiency.
The GEAR-promoted female supervisors also saw on an average a 39 percent increase in salary.
After a successful pilot, Better Work is scaling up GEAR to train 700 female operators and their managers in 70 factories to promote career-progression opportunities for women in the garment sector.
Diplomats and representatives from UN agencies, development partners, donors, government bodies, civil society, the private sector, employers' organisations and unions attended the launch event.
“Canada is advancing gender equality worldwide through Canada's Feminist International Assistance Policy,” said the high commissioner.
“It is not just about hiring or buying from women. It's about recognising talent, capabilities, and value that is too often disregarded due to gender bias,” said Prefontaine.
Although 80 percent of line-operators in the sewing sections of the garment sector are women, 19 out of 20 line-supervisors are male. This means 90 percent of the managerial talent in factories comes from just 20 percent of the workforce.
“Gender equality and gender empowerment was one of the core founding principles of the ILO in 1919,” said Tuomo Poutiainen, country director of ILO Bangladesh.
“100 years on and this is still central to our work. But much more needs to be done in advancing gender diversity - not just in the RMG sector but in every sector.”
“There is a strong business case to having more females in leadership positions,” said Nuzhat Anwar, acting country manager of IFC.
“Through the GEAR programme, we hope to actively work on increasing career-progression opportunities and promotion of women and addressing the gender imbalances in leadership roles in the garment sector.”