Supported by the Conscious Fashion Campaign in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Partnerships, the RCGD Global Design Contest 2020 in partnership with TENCEL™ Luxe will be directing a percentage of funds raised towards two crucial organizations: Awaj Foundation in Bangladesh and The Fifth Pillar (in cooperation with Fair Wear) in Myanmar, as provision for the disproportionately vulnerable garment workers severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through its projects, services, research and advocacy, the Awaj Foundation in Bangladesh aims to empower workers and enable harmonious industrial relations. Awaj Foundation particularly focuses on supporting women workers, because they believe that leadership from women can transform society towards greater equity and justice. Awaj Foundation are also working to establish a decent and living wage for garment workers in Bangladesh. As a grassroots organization with an extensive network among garment workers and their families, Awaj Foundation are witnessing first-hand the devastating impact the pandemic is having on workers. Many members have reported that their factories have been shut down indefinitely and workers were given only 23 days of salary as severance. Some factories have closed without giving any payments to workers at all.
All the sectors of business in Bangladesh are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the garment industry is terribly affected, especially the garment workers who are now facing mounting problems. There are 4.5 million garment workers in Bangladesh’s garment and textile industry, of whom 65% are women. These women all face separate challenges, some having internally migrated from different parts of the countryside to industrial cities, often sending money back to their families. Some of the women workers are single mothers, divorced, widowed or simply living far away from their families.
During COVID-19 approximately more than 30,000 workers have already lost their jobs due to the reduction in production work and countless international business orders being cancelled. As a result, a high number of workers have not been paid their workers wage for the month of March. It has recently been decided, after numerous meetings and collective negotiations with labour leaders that 65% of wages workers will be paid for the month of April (although 100% of wage remuneration was being sought). For the months of March and April, factories heavily laid off their workforce, and those workers specifically will only receive half of their basic wage and full house rent as per Bangladesh Labour Law. This leaves many workers receiving less than the minimum wages and struggling to meet their basic needs for themselves and their families. If this situation continues, the repercussions will be devastating. In this intrepid situation, it will be nearly impossible for these garment workers to secure new jobs due to COVID-19 and its impact. Still, some factories have already reopened despite the pandemic threat, without the maintenance of social distancing rules despite WHO guidelines. Workers will undoubtedly return to work, faced with potential job loss. Sadly, unemployment remains their greatest fear, even more than being infected with COVID-19.
The RCGD Global Design Contest 2020 in partnership with TENCEL™ Luxe is an international design contest, launched on 12th May 2020 to a wide reaching design community including emerging and established designers from every corner of the globe. In addition to creating opportunity for the global design community, the campaign will be supporting a message of hope and directing a percentage of funds raised towards Awaj Foundation to deliver the assistance project. It will be managed by the Awaj Foundation and run from May 2020. The project is funded by Red Carpet Green Dress (RCGD) based in the USA.
Through the assistance program Awaj Foundation will provide support to garment workers, in order to meet their immediate needs for food and others necessities. Mostly women workers from garment and textile factories are entitled to receive this assistance, to be provided according to the following criteria, without discrimination against race, religion, age, birth place, and union or non-union membership:
Workers who are terminated or laid off
Workers who are temporarily suspended from their workplace
Workers who received less than the minimum wages due to COVID-19 health restrictions
Workers who need emergency health care or other support during this pandemic
Women workers who are pregnant, widowed, divorced, single mothers
Women workers with physical challenges and suffering from long term diseases
Women workers who have children below the age of 6
Find out more about Awaj Foundation here, other ally The Fifth Pillar here and the RCGD Global Design Contest 2020 in partnership with TENCEL™ Luxe here.