A new report details the impact of the Lesotho Anti-GBVH Program over the past two years. This Program was created by a set of landmark agreements between apparel companies, a major manufacturer, unions, and women’s groups to address gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) in Lesotho garment factories. The WRC has played a central role throughout the design and implementation of the Agreements and resulting Anti-GBVH Program, serving as a convenor and providing technical support, along with the Solidarity Center.
Among the report highlights is the review of investigations conducted by Workers’ Rights Watch (WRW), the independent investigative organization created by the Agreements. Since February 2021, WRW has completed 44 GBVH investigations, finding in 28 cases that violations of the Code of Conduct had been committed. For each of these findings, WRW directed disciplinary action to be taken, including termination of the employment of harassers from the factories covered by the program. Over the 22-month period, the vast majority of Nien Hsing’s workforce in Lesotho (6,159 employees) have attended the two-day workshop.
The broader aim of the Anti-GBVH Program is to create a culture shift at the factories around GBVH, and the report indicates that changes are starting to happen. One Nien Hsing employee shared, “Our situation changed a lot. We can now report incidences of GBVH […] I speak openly to workers about how the WRW assisted me in my case and how grateful I am for them.”
Background on the Lesotho Anti-GBVH Program
This Program, which covers factories owned by the Taiwanese firm Nien Hsing, was created by the Lesotho Anti-GBVH Agreements signed in 2019. In response to a WRC investigation, these landmark agreements were signed by three leading apparel brands, Nien Hsing (a major supplier of denim), and a coalition of labor unions and women’s rights organizations. These Agreements represented the first instance in which brands and their supplier entered into enforceable agreements with worker representatives to stop sexual harassment, sexual coercion, and other forms of GBVH, and to protect workers.
The five Lesotho trade unions and women’s rights organizations—Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), United Textile Employees (UNITE), the National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), the Federation of Women Lawyers in Lesotho (FIDA) and Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Education Trust – Lesotho (WLSA)—signed separate enforceable agreements with Levi Strauss & Co., The Children’s Place, and Kontoor Brands (Wrangler and Lee jeans).
The agreements signed with the brands operate in tandem with a separate agreement between Nien Hsing and the trade unions and women’s rights organizations that lays out the components of the Anti-GBVH Program and the signatories’ obligations under the agreement. The agreement establishes an information line run by FIDA to provide workers with information about the program and to submit complaints, an independent investigative organization to investigate complaints of GBVH and issue remedies, and a comprehensive education and awareness program, including a two-day workshop for all employees.
The WRC, along with the Solidarity Center and Workers United, who assisted with the negotiations of the agreements, are non-party signatories. The Solidarity Center leads in assisting the partners in implementing the program.