Munnade, March Forward in Kannada (the language of Karnataka State), is a social organisation founded by former and current women garment daily-wage workers. It was formed in 2004 to support women workers in their communities, build their collective strength and provide awareness-raising programmes in labour rights, women’s rights and combat the domestic violence women faced in their daily lives.
Out of the initial work of the organisation and earlier attempts at organisation, women workers formed the first women-led garment sector union in 2012, the Garment Labour Union (GLU). GLU has 1,200 members and collaborates with other trade unions and civil society organisations to engage government, influence policy and defend women workers’ rights.
Munnade and GLU operate across the two main industrial textile-manufacturing areas of Bangalore, Mysore Road and Peenya, and have members in 20 large factories. The organisations aim to build the collective strength of workers in the sector and to protect the interests of its members and stop injustice and exploitation of women in the workplace. They take up cases related to pay and working conditions, sexual harassment and unfair dismissal and collaborate with other civil society organisations and campaigns to improve working conditions. Low resources and poverty among workers (who are unable to pay for services or training provided) constrain the organisations’ activities.
Sisters For Change worked with Munnade from 2014-2016 to combat sexual harassment and violence against women workers in factories in Bangalore. Sisters For Change held workshops for hundreds of women garment workers to raise awareness about violence against women and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and trained a cadre of Community Paralegals on women’s rights, domestic laws on violence against women, and how to conduct surveys on treatment of workers and prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sisters For Change also provided capacity strengthening on managing cases and on engaging with factory management and criminal justice authorities. In June 2016, Sisters For Change and Munnade launched a joint report to evidence the findings of our work and the chronic failure of factory compliance with the Sexual Harassment Act 2013.