Oxfam Canada launches new program to promote the rights of women domestic workers in Bangladesh
(Ottawa) Thanks to a contribution of $11.9 million from the Government of Canada, more than 16,000 women domestic workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh will be better empowered and organized to claim their right to decent work, and to access employment that is free from violence. Local women’s rights organizations (WROs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) will strengthen their capacity to promote and protect domestic workers’ rights, and to help shift negative attitudes, norms and behaviours that foster discrimination and violence against women domestic workers in Bangladeshi society.
Over a five-year period, the Securing Rights of Domestic Workers program will improve the agency of women domestic workers, by increasing awareness of their rights, improving their ability to organize and collectively advocate for their rights, and supporting them to access training opportunities to improve their skills and competencies for better employment.
Concurrently, Securing Rights will work to foster an enabling environment for domestic workers’ rights by engaging employers and policy makers around the Domestic Worker Protection and Welfare Policy and developing a national action plan for its full adoption and implementation. A behavioural change campaign, aimed particularly at men and boys, community leaders and norm setters, will increase awareness and sensitivity around women domestic workers’ rights and create broad-based support to improve their working conditions and access to employment that is free from violence. The project will build on the momentum generated by the Government of Bangladesh through the creation of the policy to protect the rights of domestic workers.
“Advancing gender equality and eliminating gender-based violence is at the heart of Canada’s international assistance. With this investment, Canada is funding Oxfam Canada to improve the well-being of women domestic workers in Bangladesh and provide education on life skills, women’s leadership rights, and skills training. Canada is pleased to be able to help vulnerable women in developing countries contribute to their own economic success and increase the awareness and protection of women’s rights,” said Maryam Monsef, Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality.
A key challenge facing women domestic workers in Bangladesh is their exclusion from the legal protections provided by the Labour Act. As a result, they face significant barriers in finding decent work, are vulnerable to routine exploitation and abuse, lack fair and healthy work conditions, have no access to social protection and are among the lowest paid labourers in the country. Domestic workers, who are predominantly women, also face unique challenges such as sexual assault, gender-based violence and lack of parental leave, which is worsened by the private and isolated nature of their workplaces.
“Bangladeshi women disproportionally face the burden of inequality, lagging significantly behind men when it comes to income, employment and other well-being indicators. Women domestic workers are some of the most marginalized women in society and without the protection offered by formal employment, are especially vulnerable to exploitation,” said Julie Delahanty, Oxfam Canada Executive Director.
“We are so honoured to be able to build on the work of the Government of Bangladesh and support their commitment to improving the rights of Bangladeshi women domestic workers,” Delahanty said.
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Notes to Editors:
- More than 80 percent of working people in Bangladesh earn less than $4/day (UNDP).
- Women in Bangladesh earn an average of 23.1 per cent less per hour than men for the same kind of jobs (Oxfam 2016—Asia Inequality Report).
- 90 per cent of the 10.5 million domestic workforce in Bangladesh are women (Labour Force Survey-2013-BBS).
- Average wages for a domestic worker is below US $12/month, with 10-12 hours working days (2018 – Bangladesh Free Trade Union Congress report).
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