Interestingly, more than 60% of the labour in the garment industry is made up of women, making it one of the largest industries in the world, second only to the agriculture sector.
One of the few industries that has traditionally relied on female craftspeople, the apparel sector continues to empower women by creating jobs, especially in developing countries. For instance, Bangladesh, a major player in the global ready-to-wear industry, employs 3.6 million people, more than half of them are women. Bangladesh’s female labour force participation increased from 24.73% in 1990 to 36.26% in 2019, and a sizable portion of these women work in the garment sector, which generates more than 80% of the country’s export revenue. Similar to this, 15 million individuals in India are employed in the garment sector, with 90% of the workforce being female. Furthermore, women are represented at all organisational levels, from skilled workers to managers to executives.
Brands like GAP, ZARA, and H&M have started to place a greater emphasis recently on the production facilities in South Asian nations, where the apparel business integrates female craftsmen into the mainstream workforce. In addition to empowering women to be economically independent, such integration has significant social, political, and cultural effects.
Including Marginalized Women
Women’s labour has historically been exploited in a variety of ways, especially in economically disadvantaged households where women lack access to the educational opportunities necessary for social mobility. Such women from the poorest of households now have professional options thanks to the clothing industry, which has given them paid employment.
Without even a formal education, women can be taught the required skills for the textile manufacturing process (such as weaving, stitching, embroidery, dying, and so on). Many clothing firms and socially conscious NGOs have worked to train women of various ages in these necessary skills, eventually enabling them to support themselves.
Social enterprises like the Bose Foundation in India, have been effective in introducing women artisans to new markets by highlighting their traditional sewing and embroidery abilities. Due to social and religious restrictions, these women are unable to work outside of their houses, yet they can still support themselves by working from home in the clothing manufacturing sector.
It is vital to recognise that the garment sector is giving women opportunities they would not otherwise have had access to, even if it is frequently said that the industry hires women because they can be paid less due to the historical gender-based imbalance in the workplace. Additionally, a growing number of businesses who produce clothing are now exhibiting a stronger sense of social responsibility. They want to ensure that women artisans, who are found everywhere from Bangladesh to Cambodia to the most underdeveloped areas of the Philippines, receive decent wages and work in a healthy atmosphere.
increasing awareness of women’s rights
In in addition to providing opportunities for women to work in groups with other women and advance economically, the garment business has also helped women become more aware of their rights at work, in society, and at home.
Even as European businesses have rightly come under fire for failing to pay their female employees in developing nations a fair living wage, there have also been instances in which female employees have organised into unions and taken the reins of labour organisations, drawing attention from a wide audience with the strength of their campaigns.
Western and local organisations that push clothing companies to improve employee pay and working conditions now provide significant support for women workers in the industry. Women’s integration into the fashion industry has clearly paved the way for their political and social awakening, allowing them to fight for and win better working conditions for themselves.
The status of women in their own households is eventually expected to improve as a result of such economic independence and social and political participation. Financially independent workers have better chances of leaving an abusive home and find it relatively easier to deal with problems like domestic violence. Studies also show that empowered women who work in the apparel manufacturing sector want to educate their own daughters so that they can have better futures.
Providing Jobs to refugee women workers
The industry of clothing manufacture deserves special recognition for the ground-breaking role it has played in giving Palestinian refugee women who live in camps in Lebanon and Jordan jobs. Such women and their families, who are the victims of political unrest, have managed to make a respectable living thanks to assistance from the textile manufacturing sector, where their abilities and workmanship have found tremendous value.
Opportunities for women in all aspects of society
Women from underrepresented groups now have more employment options because to the garment manufacturing sector; also, the sector has supported women in starting their own businesses.
Thousands of women have launched their own fashion lines, shops, and production facilities in emerging nations. These female business owners go on to employ additional women and support one another in the process, with the garment sector serving as a bridge to connect them all.