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LONDON – The MeToo movement can provide a springboard to help improve women’s rights in global apparel supply chains, claims the Ethical Trade Initiative. While the movement has drawn much-needed attention to the fight against sexual abuse, the ETI believes it can now be a catalyst for change among some of the world’s most vulnerable workers – women working in garment factories.

The ETI claims that tackling gender inequality and discrimination not only benefits women workers and wider society, but is also good for business, with evidence suggesting it can help manufacturers boost productivity while reducing absenteeism, staff turnover, overtime and production errors.

ETI’s senior advisor on gender and diversity, Halima Ahmed said: “Women are disproportionately represented in the lower tiers of supply chains and are currently without much hope for progressing towards more productive and better paid work. This is bad for women and bad for business. Companies need to better understand the risks and vulnerabilities that are particular to women workers and take steps to address them.”

To help address the root causes of inequality, ETI has launched new guidance which summarises likely gender issues in supply chains and how businesses can respond. Published in two parts, the first part sets out the rationale for addressing gender inequality including the key factors that affect women given their specific vulnerabilities. Part B outlines a graduated approach to the integration of gender equality and women worker’s rights using a human rights due diligence approach, with examples of best practice.

“The #MeToo movement has drawn invaluable attention to the fight against sexual abuse. That movement now needs to be extended into global supply chains and be used as a springboard to help upgrade women’s labour rights,” says Halima Ahmed. “When women are respected and can earn a decent income, there is a multiplier effect. They support themselves and their families and contribute to the development of more sustainable communities and economies everywhere.”

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