Fashion is great, it’s fantastic, it’s art, it’s superficial, it’s a luxury, and it’s fun. For millions of consumers around the world, fashion is an industry for mass consumerism through trends and seasons; it’s a form of self-expression. There’s no doubt that the textiles and clothing industry has provided some empowerment for working women and narrowing the gender inequality in many spheres. But, women are still under-represented in their vital role towards the development of the industry towards a more sustainable future of the industry.
For 70% of women in developing countries, fashion is a means of living – where they spend countless hours labouring in cramped factory spaces with limited to no rights, educations and acknowledgement to ensure that the industry is continuous churning out enough products to be put onto racks in retail. It’s been studied however that women, as individuals who make up half the population of the world and as the individuals solely responsible for looking after the household, play a vital role in the development and the success of the fashion industry, alongside the entire value chain that the industry produces.
There’s no denying that the textiles and clothing industry has contributed to the economic and social advancement for many women of course, and does contribute to their empowerment by narrowing the gender inequality in many spheres. But women are still under-represented in their vital role towards the development of the industry towards a more sustainable future. In spite of their role in the economic and social contribution towards the industry, many women who work in the textiles factories in developing countries experience great discrimination of gender inequality and lack of protection and rights. These women who do so much for the things that consumers wear, then become targets for social and economic exploitation and find themselves at a disadvantage against male counterparts in terms of their wages, their economic opportunities and social marginalisation. There is no form of self-expression in labouring for the sake of others, is there?
Unfortunately, no matter how terrible the situation gets for these women due to the exploitation of suppliers and fashion businesses, the basic rights and needs of these women continue to be widely disregarded. It should have been done ages ago, but now in the 21st century where women, regardless of geographical location or status, should be able to live comfortably knowing that there is gender equality for them with a set of regulated rights that don’t disadvantage them from any kind of opportunities, this issue of women’s rights and empowerment in the textiles industry still have to be tackled and fixed – with the help of businesses and young fashionable consumers, coming together to raise awareness and vocalisation of women’s rights and the poor working conditions in the textiles industry is the start of potential change in the way the industry evolves in a more sustainable and safe environment.
Obviously it isn’t a utopian ambition, because it’s not an easy task that can be achieved overnight, but it is an ambition to be able to vocalise gender equity and hopefully improve the livelihoods of women in all social, economic and environmental cases in an industry made by women, run by women for women. Through the concepts of redesigning production, improving working environment infrastructures and working towards the empowerment of women through regulated rights of work standards and even leadership and position opportunities, this goal of gender equality for the industry is gradually being tackled universally.
Some very important designers and brands include Krochet Kids, Symbology, Akola and Indigo Africa that are helping to empower women as leaders in the fashion industry by giving them an opportunity to become leaders in sustainable development of ethical fashion.
By improving the lives of these women who work so effortlessly to make pieces of self-expression for consumers overseas, it’ll be the real deal towards an industry and world that is empowered by self-expression and gender equity where women are given equal opportunities and are leaders in an industry made for them.
Special feature as a delegate for the UN ECOSOC Forum 2016.