One dead, at least 25 injured in Bangladesh workers’ protest

A man throws brickbet towards police during clashes as Bangladeshi striking garments workers march in the streets of Dhaka on Jan. 8, 2019 during a third day of demonstration to demand wage hikes. (AFP)
Updated 08 January 2019
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One dead, at least 25 injured in Bangladesh workers’ protest

  • Around 100 factories in the Savar area suspended operations to prevent further trouble
  • In a bid to resolve the pay row, a meeting was held on Tuesday afternoon

DHAKA: A protester was shot dead and at least 25 other people were injured on Tuesday during clashes between police and factory workers in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.
Hundreds of staff employed in the garment-making industry took to the city’s streets for a third consecutive day of action in demonstrations over controversial new pay structures.
Health officials confirmed that one person had died from a gunshot wound received when police and workers clashed in the capital’s Savar industrial district where many of the clothing manufacturing plants are based.
From early morning, protesters had taken to the streets, blocking traffic on busy main roads and routes to Dhaka International Airport. As police attempted to disperse the workers, at least 25 people were injured, including some police officers.  
Around 100 factories in the Savar area suspended operations to prevent further trouble.
Dr. Wajedul Islam Khan, general secretary of the Trade Union Center, blamed the protests on “long-standing discrimination over wages.” He claimed that under new pay scales the basic salary of some garment workers had been reduced.
Nazma Akter, president of the Combined Garment Workers’ Federation, said a lack of communication between workers and factory owners about the new wage structures was one of the causes of the latest unrest.
However, she called for an end to the protests and told Arab News: “Discussion with the management will bring the ultimate solution. Anarchy will not solve the problems.”
In a bid to resolve the pay row, a meeting was held on Tuesday afternoon between all sides in the dispute. It was presided over by State Minister for Labor Affairs Munnujan Sufian. Garment entrepreneur and Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi was also present along with garment owners’ association officials and trade union leaders.   
Siddikur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told Arab News that a committee comprised of five trade union leaders and five representatives of the government and factory owners had been given a month to prepare a full report on the matter.
Rahman said he hoped workers would return to their factories on Wednesday.
More than 4 million workers, mostly female, are employed in the apparel sector in Bangladesh which last year exported more than $30 billion worth of goods, making it the second-largest readymade garment exporter in the world after China.
Following pressure from garment workers, the Bangladeshi government raised their minimum monthly pay from $60 to $100 on September 2018, a move which came into effect from December 2018. But several trade unions rejected the increase and demanded a minimum wage of at least $150.
The latest pay protests are nothing new in the sector. In December 2016, hundreds of garment workers demonstrated in Dhaka and Savar demanding a basic wage of $200, and more than 100 arrests were made.
The dispute lasted until December 2017 when a wage board was formed, finally leading to an agreement.


Millions of women still landless despite global push for equality

Updated 16 min 49 sec ago
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Millions of women still landless despite global push for equality

  • Throughout rural areas in Zimbabwe, for example, widows routinely find themselves harassed and exploited by in-laws claiming the property their husbands left behind
WASHINGTON: Millions of women worldwide are still unable to access and own land despite laws recognizing their rights, researchers and campaigners said on Monday as they urged countries to bridge the gap between policy and practice.
Patriarchal attitudes toward women and girls and a lack of knowledge of their own rights “prevent millions of women from owning land,” said Victoria Stanley, senior rural development specialist at the World Bank.
“Only 30 percent of the world’s population own land titles, and women are often the least likely to have any land registered,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of a World Bank conference in Washington, D.C.
“Stand for her land,” a campaign launched on Monday by the World Bank and advocacy groups including Landesa and Habitat for Humanity International, aims to change that by promoting better implementation of land laws for women.
Globally, more than 400 million women farm, yet only about 15 percent of farmland is owned by women, according to Landesa.
That inequality exposes women to all manner of rights abuses, rights activists say.
Throughout rural areas in Zimbabwe, for example, widows routinely find themselves harassed and exploited by in-laws claiming the property their husbands left behind.
Although Zimbabwe’s constitution gives women and men equal rights to property and land, in many rural communities tradition overrides national legislation, experts say.
Godfrey Massey of Landesa Tanzania said the existence of laws in itself does not necessarily translate into better access to land for women.
“Women can own land just as men, but few women are aware of this in Tanzania,” he said, calling for more initiatives at the community level to raise awareness of land rights.
“We’ve seen trainings lead to a rise in women joining village land councils or realizing that their husband can’t mortgage the family land without their consent,” he said.
Rajan Samuel of Habitat for Humanity India said that efforts to improve land rights must acknowledge cultural norms like India’s centuries-old Hindu caste system.
“You can have all the policies in the world, if you don’t engage the community from day one you won’t succeed,” he said.