From 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, Awaj Foundation organized and participated in a series of events on gender-based violence (GBV). Involving male coworkers, employers and community members in the fight against GBV and highlighting the role of freedom of association and unions were some of the key messages in our 16-day campaign. These events and activities were held in solidarity with the global campaign on 16 Days of Activism, where people around the world united to raise awareness about GBV, challenge discriminatory attitudes and call for improved laws and services to end violence against women.
Our 16 Days of Activism started with a roadshow on “women-friendly industry” organized in collaboration with Action Aid and Kormojibi Nari. In this roadshow, we placed particular focus on reaching out to male workers, union members and community people to sensitize them on GBV and enlist them as allies to combat harassment.
We held outreach events with workers in our 22 cafes on GBV throughout the 16 days. On 8 December, we organized a roundtable discussion and cultural show in Chittagong that was attended by local government officials, factory owners and managers, workers and union leaders. At this event, Awaj employees shared the type of GBV faced by workers (physical, sexual, mental, financial) and demanded a zero-tolerance policy from the government, trade unions, employers and communities.
We also shared our messages and raised our demands at international and regional forums. Awaj Executive Director Nazma Akter was at the civil society meeting on the UN Global Compact on Migration in Marrakech, where she emphasized adoption of ILO conventions 87 (freedom of association) and 98 (right to organize and collective bargaining). She said that in order to protect women migrant workers from gender-based violence, we must ensure that they have freedom of association and ability to connect with local unions.
Awaj treasurer Khadiza Akter spoke at a regional workshop on GBV in the garment sector, organized by Solidarity Center on 6-7 December in Bangkok that included representatives of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Khadiza shared the experience of Awaj in Bangladesh with regional colleagues in order to formulate better regional strategies to eliminate GBV in the garment sector.