Fast fashion is connected to human rights issues in a negative way. Workers often experience discriminatory and exploitative labor conditions. The combination of short-term contracts that make it easier to fire and control workers, poor government labor inspection and enforcement make it difficult for workers, the vast majority of whom are young women, to assert their rights. Here’s how it has played out against women in the textile and garment industry and how we can empower them to protect their rights.
Women workers face pervasive pregnancy-based discrimination ranging from termination of employment to denial of statutory maternity benefits. According to a report by the organization War on Want, women workers are vulnerable to other rights abuses such as the denial of maternity leave, forced pregnancy tests and sexual harassment or violence.
The fashion and textile industry employs about 250 million children, as young as 5 years old. Working this young means they’re not in school. Forced to work instead of being able to go to school limits their opportunities of social mobility. As female education is an integral part of sustainable development, this is detrimental to the global economy. Putting girls in schools instead of factories is an investment in the success of communities and our global economy.
Sexual abuse is a widespread problem in the fashion industry, both in textile and garment factories and also in the modeling world. Sadly sexual harassment is very common in factories and often workers have a very little understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment.
The annual CFDA Awards is the highest honor for an American fashion designer, considered the Oscars of the industry. Despite fashion still being considered a feminized occupation only men were nominated at last year award in both top womenswear and menswear categories. So it seems men are more often awarded praise and awards than women in the industry.
On October 24th 1975, 90% of Iceland's women refused to work. They refused to cook or look after children. The question was raised by women's movements. Why are young men taking home higher wages than women? Their job was no less physically strenuous. The effect was incredible!
Women from all walks of life, young and old, grannies and schoolgirls participated. The participation was so widespread because women from all the political parties and unions worked together. They made it happen. Iceland's men were barely coping.
Not surprisingly this day was later referred to by them as "the long Friday".
Changes don’t happen in a day. This is a powerful way of reminding society of the role women play in its running. Their low pay. The low value placed on their work. If we accept this as a norm than there will be no changes.
Women in textile and garment factories often don’t know that they have rights. Part of solving the problem is empowering women textile workers, so that they too can fight for their own rights.
You can have a powerful influence. By being conscious about who made your clothes and how they were made. See if the brands you already support are aligned with your own values. First and foremost choose sustainable brands that reduce their impact on earth and care about their workers.
We believe there should always be equality wherever you are. Human rights should always be highly valued.
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DIMMBLÁ, ICELANDIC DESIGN COMPANY
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