Equal Pay for Women Workers: The Fair Wage Campaign (Bangladesh Case Study)

In Bangladesh, the poorest of the poor (both women and men) are often engaged in day labor as hired seasonal workers on landowners’ large plantations. Currently, there are about as many women as men engaged in this type of work, and they perform almost identical tasks. But they do not earn equal wages. In an analysis of wages in the four Unions in which Pathways works, it was found that for a day’s labor, men earn an average of $2.22, while women earn nearly half of that amount ($1.21). Moreover, women who are engaged in day labor are often harassed due to social prohibitions and norms about women’s mobility and visibility. Their work is neither recognized nor fully remunerated.

To address this structural gender bias in the agriculture sector, Pathways project staff and the Empowerment Through Knowledge And Transformative Action group (EKATA) volunteers facilitated a participatory analysis on “fair wage” at each EKATA community  in four of the project’s six targeted unions, which illustrated the disparity in men’s and women’s wages.  The group members facilitated 244 sessions, in which nearly 12,000 people (7,073 women and 4,671 men) participated. At the end of these meeting, they developed plans to take action and bring their common concerns to the landowners and social elites. Male day laborers recognized that equal wages for women would also benefit their families (as many work together), and they joined forces with the women to campaign for equal pay.

Bangladesh 294x196 Equal Pay for Women Workers: The Fair Wage Campaign (Bangladesh Case Study)

Day laborers in Bangladesh

Aiming to motivate the land owners and local elites to reduce the wage gap, the project organized 12 ward-level and four union-level mass gatherings, with the assistance of the women’s collectives EKATA groups. The meetings brought together all levels of the communities, including representatives of local government, government line departments, land owners in that locality, men and women day laborers, natural leaders, EKATA volunteers, and representative of local non-governmental organizations and CARE staff. On average, 500 ward-level and 2,000 union-level participants attended these events. The EKATA volunteers and representatives publicly presented their analysis of the discrimination in wages; similarly land owners and other local elites gave their speeches and publicly signed the proposition of increasing women’s wages. A number of landowners also expressed their opinions about the value of women’s work, and acknowledged that in some jobs (such as intercultural operation of tobacco, harvesting potato, raising seedlings, weeding agricultural fields), women comparatively do better than men. They pledged to increase wages of women day labor.

Presently, men and women are working together in the crops field as a team. Landowners are showing a more positive attitude to the women day laborers, and women day laborers are getting equal wages at end of each day without having to request it, and without being harassed—as had previously been the case. Recognizing the different needs of female workers, the landowners have even created a space for the women who are breastfeeding and are allowing women to breastfeed their children in the working time.

Please follow the link below for a video on Pathways to Reduce Discrimination in Agricultural Labor Wages https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNsBCtwQ5dI

Pathways’ incredible strides in campaigning for equal wages was also featured on one of Bangladesh’s national television channels; see the short video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJTXROL5OLc 

Contributors: CARE Bangladesh Pathways Staff