Awaj Foundation takes a comprehensive approach to improving the lives of workers. This means that we provide support to workers both inside the factories and in the communities. Moreover, we work with stakeholders such as brands, BGMEA, the government and other policymakers to improve structural conditions for workers in the garment sector and beyond.
We work in the factories to train workers on their rights under Bangladesh Labour Law, international legal frameworks, occupational safety and health and negotiation methods. We also train factory management and workers on gender sensitivity, their rights and responsibilities towards each other and on how to engage in social dialogue to improve working conditions and productivity. Over the last three years, Awaj Foundation has helped negotiate 6 collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in the RMG sector, which accounts for over half of the total CBAs negotiated in the sector as a whole in that time period.
We provide support to workers and unions to set up mechanisms in factories that ensure better safety and working conditions, such as participation committees, safety committees and anti-harassment committees. We particularly focus on issues that are vital to women workers, such as daycare facilities and implementation of maternity benefits according to the law.
Through 22 women’s cafes across the country, we provide a range of services and trainings to workers. Awaj Foundation has provided legal aid services to over 14,000 workers to date, on a range of issues including unfair dismissal, harassment and violence at work and family disputes. Through its health services program, Awaj has helped over 100,000 patients, including providing support to poor workers for surgery and other long-term medical treatments.
The women’s cafes are also great venues to provide trainings to workers outside of working hours. We use games, role-playing and other recreational methods to train workers on life skills such as financial management, healthy lifestyles and civic and citizenship rights. Moreover, we provide leadership and negotiation training to workers, particularly women, which has shown to be very effective in encouraging women to take up leadership roles in their workplaces and communities.
Awaj Foundation conducts advocacy at the national and international levels for structural changes to improve working conditions. At the national level, we work with the government of Bangladesh, owners’ associations (BGMEA, BKMEA), buyers and brands to improve legislation on issues such as minimum wage, workplace safety and eliminating gender-based violence. Awaj Foundation was instrumental in the campaign that lead to a 77% increase of the minimum wage in the RMG sector in 2013. We again played a leading role in the 2018 campaign, which resulted in a further 53% increase, bringing the RMG sector minimum wage to Tk 8,000 (USD 95). We will continue to campaign for wage increases until it reaches a living wage in Bangladesh.
At the international level, Awaj Foundation has pushed for increased accountability for workers’ rights violations in supply chains in forums such as the European Parliament, OECD and the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. Awaj is also a member of international solidarity networks on human rights, gender justice and migration, such as the Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD), the Civil Society Caucus of Fair Labor Association and CARAM Asia.