A lot of the times, when we talk of women at work, we tend to fixate on the massive female workforce in the RMG industry. The role they play in our economy has made them a crucial chapter in the positive story of women’s empowerment in Bangladesh – although the recent protests show that not all is as well as it seems. However, while more and more women are joining the formal sector, the truth is that the majority of female workers in Bangladesh are still trapped in low-wage, flexible labour – struggling to get by on daily wages.
Add on top of that the many social and personal obstacles that women tend to face – such as belonging to single mother households, being forced to pay dowry, having multiple children and receiving inadequate health care and nutrition and so on – and we are faced with a picture that is far from rosy. These are the faces of our massive populations of female workers who are trapped in poverty with no days off, no increments, no benefits and no unions. Whether it is their rights as women or as workers – they are denied both.