President of Sommilito Garments Sromik Federation
General Secretary & Executive Director Awaj Foundation.
Nazma Akter has been fighting to improve rights of women workers for the last 27 years. She is President of Sommilito Garments Shomik Federation and General Secretary and Executive Director of Awaj Foundation, a grassroots NGO delivering training on Bangladeshi labour laws, personal health and hygiene and occupational health and safety to thousands of female garment workers across Dhaka and Chittagong. Awaj works to empower women workers by helping them improve their negotiating skills and build a better relationship with managers and the garment in industry of Bangladesh as a whole.
Nazma started working in a garment factory when she was 11 years old alongside her mother, first working as a helper and then later as an operator. Witnessing continual problems and abuses within her work place she decided to stand up and fight for her rights. She first worked with a number of existing trade unions, joining them in worker rallies and campaigns throughout the 1990s. These organizations, overtly political, presented continual barriers and challenges to the organization amongst workers, she therefore decided to push forward and establish her own trade union. The Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, affiliated with IndustriALL of which Nazma is President, now has membership of over 70 thousand women garment workers. Not only does SGSF have a wide membership, but also actively works with its members to ensure their rights in the work place, government and wider society. These include working to raise awareness and change attitudes and prejudices against women, which women engaged in garment production in Bangladesh continue to face. Nazma was also a member of the Minimum wage board since 2006, representing the workers to negotiate for the 2006 minimum wage adjustment.