Combating Gender-Based Violence in Lesotho
On August 15, 2019, a set of landmark agreements were signed among leading apparel brands, the coalition of labor unions and women’s rights advocates, and Nien Hsing, a major producer of denim jeans globally, to address gender-based violence and harassment in Lesotho.
The agreements establish Workers’ Rights Watch, an independent investigative organization, which has the responsibility to investigate allegations of gender-based violence and harassment at the factories owned by Nien Hsing in Lesotho and direct specific remedies up to and including termination from employment for violations of the code of conduct. The agreements also establish a toll-free information line—run by one of the women’s rights organizations so that workers can learn more about the program and safely report incidents of gender-based violence and harassment without fear of retaliation—and an extensive education and awareness program, which includes a two-day workshop on gender-based violence and harassment, the program code of conduct, and how to report gender-based violence and harassment for all Nien Hsing employees. Recognizing the crucial role of workers’ ability to act collectively to protect their rights in changing gender-based power inequality, the agreement also protects associational rights by prohibiting any form of anti-union retaliation or interference with workers’ exercise of their right to organize.
Beyond Lesotho, these agreements set a vital precedent in the fight against gender-based violence and harassment at work.