How women garment workers are standing up against workplace exploitation: Anjana’s Story

Over 2.5 million women are employed in the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh. The industry is one of the most important in the country. Yet, the mainly women workers at the heart of the industry are routinely expected to work 12-to-16-hour days, six days a week in unsafe and exploitative working conditions. 

Anjana’s Story 

Anjana has been working in Dhaka, Bangladesh as a garment worker for nearly two decades. She frequently works long hours to fulfill unrealistic targets, often stitching clothes for international fashion brands late into the night.  

“I wake up early every day, take a shower and go to the factory at 8 am. My official work hour is until 5 pm in the evening…It is more difficult when we are given more work targets…which cannot be completed on time and if not completed, we are not allowed to leave the factory…it’s just too stressful and harmful to our health,” explained Anjana.  

“It happened many times that it was 12 o’clock in the night when I could ​finally ​complete my target. If anyone misses their target on a given day​ they are asked to quit the job.” 

Anjana wants factory management to prioritise the rights of workers by putting their safety and wellbeing before profits.  

Women’s Cafes: A Safe Space for Garment Workers like Anjana 

In collaboration with partners – ActionAid Bangladesh and Karmojini Nuri – and with funding from the Government’s Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), we established Women’s Cafes for garment workers in the main factory areas in Bangladesh.  

Women’s Cafes are places of sisterhood and collaboration, education, and empowerment. They are spaces were women come together to learn more about their rights and share their experiences. The cafes are safe spaces for women garment workers to come together, learn about their rights at work, and access advice and training on how to stand up against injustice in the workplace.  

Anjana at an ActionAid-run Women’s Cafe in Bangladesh

Anjana began attending ActionAid’s Women’s Cafes five years ago after a neighbour encouraged her to join. After learning about her rights at work, Anjana now feels more confident to speak out against exploitation in her workplace and support other women to raise their voices.  

“Before I joined, I couldn’t even speak well, but now I have learned a lot. I can talk to everyone nicely, can ​speak up if I think something is ​​unfair or unjust​, and can make women aware of their rights. ​Women’s Cafe ​constantly supports us, and these things keep me motivated to keep going,” said Anjana.  

Anjana wants more women garment workers to have the opportunity to learn about their rights and build their confidence in standing up against exploitation in the workplace.  

“I believe that other women like me should also join ​such spaces to be able to become aware of their rights and to be able to learn​ to​ voice their opinion or​ protest against ​any ​injustice ​or unfairness ​in the​ workplace​,” said Anjana.  

Women like Anjana should not pay the price for our fast fashion. Make a tax-deductable donation today to support women garment workers to challenge exploitation and create safer workplaces for all.