Collective efforts needed for gender equality at work
Representatives from the government, employers, and workers, discussed strategies to promote gender equality at the workplace in Bangladesh at the Female Labour Inspectors Conference on May 25 in the capital.
Under the theme, "promoting gender equality at work in Bangladesh", the conference was organised by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of Bangladesh, at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, Dhaka.
This conference provided a platform for the DIFE labour inspectors to share their experience in identifying the key challenges and priorities for gender equality in the country. Discussion at the conference centred on the importance of partnership and collective efforts to promote gender equality in all industries, supported by coordinated efforts by the government, workers, and employers.
The speakers highlighted the need to eliminate violence and harassment in the workplace, develop a gender-friendly work environment by ensuring maternity protection, balancing care work, having more women in leadership positions, and developing skills.
DIFE is the national labour inspectorate of Bangladesh under the Ministry of Labour and Employment, responsible for ensuring welfare, safety, and healthy working conditions for workers in various sectors by enforcing national labour laws in line with the International Labour Standards. The department has been implementing a Gender Roadmap (GRM) since July 2020 to facilitate the department's progress towards gender mainstreaming in the industries in the short, medium, and long term.
Supported by the ILO, visible progress has been made to incorporate gender issues into the labour inspection system and occupational safety and health issues. The proportion of female labour inspectors in DIFE rose from 11% in 2013 to 21% in 2017. Currently, out of the total 523 existing posts, there are 114 female officials working in DIFE. Among them, 82 are labour inspectors. DIFE also has 21 gender master trainers who provided gender sensitization training to 237 labour inspectors and other DIFE officials in 23 district offices.
"We have made huge progress in economic participation and opportunity for women, educational attainment through girls' access to education, and Bangladesh has made substantial advancements in improving women's health and well-being," said Md. Ehsan-E-Elahi, Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment. "We will try to gather the suggestions and findings from the conference, and incorporate them in the amended labour laws and policies," he added.
"In 2010, there were only 2 female labour inspectors, and today we have about 82 female labour inspectors. This is truly a testimony of change and the progress in developing the capacity of the labour sector," said Tuomo Poutiainen, ILO country director in Bangladesh. "The ILO is committed to continuing to assist the government of Bangladesh in advancing gender equality for decent work in the country."
"I would like to congratulate the female labour inspectors for their dedication in promoting gender equality and labour rights in the country. Their commitment and hard work are making a tangible impact on the lives of workers in Bangladesh," said H. E. Anne van Leeuwen, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bangladesh.
"We have to work together to ensure that industries are evolving in a woman-friendly and environmentally safe manner. The gender roadmap, the inspection checklist, etc. are huge innovations and important steps forward," said H.E. Ms. Lilly Nicholls, the High Commissioner for Canada in Bangladesh.
The event was attended by more than 200 participants, including representatives from the government, employers' and workers' organisations, and development partners.
Md. Nasiruddin Ahmed, Inspector General, DIFE, gave the vote of thanks. Khaled Mamun Chowdhury ndc, Director General, Department of Labour; Vidiya Amrit Khan, Representative of Bangladesh Employers Federation; and Shameem Ara, Member, National Coordination Committee on Workers Education (NCCWE) and President, BJSF, among others, spoke.