Women Organising Workers (WOW), also known as the Labour programme, has launched the Labour Feminist Participatory Action Research (Labour FPAR) for 2020-2022! APWLD is conducting a Labour FPAR with a specific theme on women’s labour rights in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), aiming to advance women’s labour and human rights in Asia and the Pacific. 

Over the next 18 months, APWLD will organise three regional training to support partner organisations in conducting research and increasing their capacity to author evidence-based community research. This training will strengthen them for being vocal and effective policy advocates for labour rights, human rights and Development Justice. It will encourage young feminists in the labour movement to build their leadership and foster a generation of women labours’ rights advocates. The research program will document and investigate women workers’ situation in SEZs in Asia and the Pacific. The research program will cover the issues related to the emerging challenges in the context of COVID19; the organising power of women workers and their unions, and the mobilisations of a collective power to demand their labour rights and advance a system change for economic justice.

Along with APWLD, the following seven grassroots organisations will work together to achieve the above objectives:

1. Bindu, Bangladesh

Bindu is a non-political and non-profit organisation in Bangladesh seeking women’s collective comprising youth committed to protecting women’s human rights, ensuring gender equality, sustainable development, better quality education and a safe and hygienic environment. Their FPAR will aim to investigate, document, and advocate women’s labour rights gender-related issues, such as sexual harassment, and violation of human rights in SEZs in Bangladesh.

2. Stand Up Movement, Sri Lanka

The “Stand Up Movement Lanka” is a leading non-profit organisation in Sri Lanka for promoting,  protecting rights and entitlements of workers and commercial sex workers of the Economic  Processing Zones (EPZs). The focused research issue is identifying the structural barriers for women in representations and leadership in trade unions.

3. Women’s Centre, Sri Lanka

The Women’s Centre (WC) was established in 1982 due to the Polytex garment struggle in Sri Lanka in 1982. Presently WC has four branches in Free Trade Zones in the Southern part of Sri Lanka (Koggala, Wathupitiwala, Biyagama, Katunayake) and one chapter in the Eastern province (Vauniya). The WC has identified several apparel factories in Vauniya district and have a healthy relationships with women workers there. Their FPAR will support the organisation to scrutinise women’s labour issues related to the violation of labour rights, harassment, and lack of legal protection for women. 

4. Women Wise 3, Philippines

Women Wise3 or Women Workers in Struggle for Employment, Empowerment and Emancipation started in 2008 as a Filipino network of widows and families of slain labour activists, women trade union organisers and women workers who have been displaced in the exercise of their right to unionise and those who became victims of abuse and harassment in their workplaces. Through the years, it evolved into a grassroots organisation of women workers, displaced workers and unemployed women in urban poor communities. The research will specify decent work and living wage in the SEZs, including investigating how women workers have been affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

5. Federasi Serikat Buruh Persatuan Indonesia (FSBPI), Indonesia

FSBPI is an Indonesian women workers’ trade union federation established to respond to the poor working condition of the contractual workers. The union analyses that the women workers are worse affected. They face more complicated problems as workers and women: in the workplace; home; community. They have advocated for issues related to reproduction rights (menstruation leave, maternity leave), lactation room; and sexual harassment for women workers and LBTQ workers. Their FPAR will focus on how women workers voice out their gender injustices to create a change.

6. Karmojibi Nari, Bangladesh

Karmojibi Nari (KN), a Bangladesh organisation, started its journey on 1st of May, 1991 the International Labour day, twenty-nine years ago to ensure women rights,  and informal sectors’ workers especially the women workers. KN tries to empower and strengthen dignity, power and authority of women workers. Karmojibi Nari’s vision is a just and egalitarian society free from exploitation, deprivation and discrimination in which women-workers, women, and labourers enjoy their rights, dignity, power and authority. Their FPAR will document the women workers’ situation concerning Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the SEZs. They will contribute to  the building from-women workers-to women workers movement.

7. Workers’ Information Centre, Cambodia

Workers’ Information Centre is a women garment workers based association and was registered at the Ministry of Interior (MOI) in Cambodia, in 2009. Women in the garment factories contribute substantially to Cambodia’s economic growth, yet often remain marginalised, without representation, leadership, or a voice in decisions that affect their lives. WIC primarily works with young women employed by Cambodia’s garment factories. Low wages, hazardous working conditions, sexual harassment, discrimination, short term contracts and limited social security provisions are all hallmarks of the Cambodia garment industry. WIC supports women garment workers to advocate for and realise their rights. Through the FPAR journey, they will lead the way to fight women workers’ demands on decent work and living wage agenda, particularly during the pandemic.