Combating Gender-Based Violence in Lesotho
After the WRC exposed systemic gender-based violence and harassment at the Lesotho factories of Nien Hsing, a major global producer of denim clothing, a set of landmark agreements were negotiated among leading apparel brands, a coalition of labor unions representing workers at the factories and women’s rights advocates, and Nien Hsing. These binding agreements created a powerful and unprecedented mechanism to enable workers to bring complaints of gender-based violence and harassment to independent outside investigators with the power to punish perpetrators.
The agreements established 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 established 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. 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.
As outlined in a public report, released in 2023, the agreements have enabled workers to achieve fundamental change at Nien Hsing. Beyond Lesotho, these agreements set a vital precedent in the fight against gender-based violence and harassment at work.