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Why we focus on gender-based violence in 2022

25 November, 2022Gender-based violence is still an urgent issue, including in the garment sector, an industry with approximately 80 per cent women workers. The Covid-19 pandemic brought an increase of violence and harassment against women in general, leaving many women even more vulnerable, according to reports by the UNDP among other UN bodies. ILO Convention 190 is sending a clear message that violence or harassment in the world of work can never be tolerated, as well as providing an effective framework for addressing violence against women.

During 2022, IndustriALL Global Union, together with H&M Group and Swedish union IF Metall, have focused on building more robust ways to prevent, detect and handle cases of gender-based violence in the supply chain. A global brand, a global and a national trade union have key parts to play in preventing gender-based violence in the textile and garment industry. 

It is our conviction that collective agreements including gender-sensitive protection, together with strong company policy, zero tolerance from the top of factory management, awareness raising and empowering workers in representative structures and trade unions, are all essential components in creating a safer workplace for everyone ending gender-based violence and harassment in the garment sector.

Since the start of the year, we have together worked on raising awareness and providing workers and management with the right tools, creating a space to bring forward and resolve issues through joint trainings with key local H&M Group production offices and local trade unions. There is a need for increased knowledge on handling violence and harassment in the workplace, as well as a need for establishing a shared understanding and definition, and how to prevent and remedy it.

The next step is to set up joint global guidelines, clearly stating what is expected from suppliers when it comes to creating a safe workplace environment and ending gender-based violence and harassment.

These guidelines will give clear instructions on how to detect, prevent and manage gender-based violence and harassment cases for suppliers and for H&M Group teams and National Monitoring Committees (NMCs). The guidelines will be added to H&M Group’s code of conduct as well as to the global framework agreement (GFA) between H&M Group, IndustriALL and IF Metall.

The GFA demonstrates a commitment to fundamental rights of workers across the supply chain, covering around one and a half million garment workers at the over 1,500 factories from where H&M Group buys their products.

The guidelines will be completed early 2023, to be rolled out to during the year together with capacity building activities, setting a new standard for what is expected from a workplace in the supply chain.

Educating and empowering workers and management on gender-based violence and sexual harassment is a crucial step towards ratification of C190. As strong actors in the textile and garment industry, together representing millions of workers in the supply chain, we have to lead by example.