Women Workers in the Ready-Made Garments Industry in Bangladesh: The challenges of empowerment using Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach

Author: Aziza Rahman

Rahman, Aziza, 2018 Women Workers in the Ready-Made Garments Industry in Bangladesh: The challenges of empowerment using Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Bangladesh’s Ready-made garment (RMG) industry is one of the noteworthy sectors contributing to economic growth, industrialisation, and foreign exports. It is also the world's second-largest apparel market after China. The question is whether it also empowers disadvantaged women from rural Bangladesh who make up most of the workforce. After the overwhelming tragedies of the Tazreen Fashions Fire in 2012 and Rana Plaza Collapse in 2013, international buyers, human rights agencies, donor agencies and other stakeholders raised concerns about unsafe working conditions and poor compliance facilities for female workers. The thesis evaluates the progress of women workers towards economic, social and political empowerment in the presence of human right violations that obstruct achievement of full empowerment. By using Amartya Sen’s capability approach as a lens to conceptualise empowerment, the thesis explores how employment in the RMG industry contributes to the everyday lives of women workers. It finds that the RMG industry enhances the economic and political ability of women to realise new practices of agency and renegotiate their social roles to formulate and chose strategic life options. The thesis concludes that women’s full empowerment vis-à-vis men is yet to be achieved because human rights violations remain in the RMG industry, which is a reflection of society. The findings of the thesis will be useful for policymakers to ensure better working conditions and to protect the rights of women RMG worker through reducing human rights violations. Future research will investigate whether progress is made towards women workers’ comprehensive capabilities.

Keywords: Bangladesh RMG Industry, women empowerment, human rights violation, capability, gender inequality

Subject: International Relations thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2018
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Michael Sullivan