Women in Asia Conference 2021
Fashioning Gender in Asia
23 – 26 November 2021
La Trobe University
La Trobe Asia Public Lecture
Join us for the La Trobe Asia Public Lecture given by:
Associate Professor Shelley Marshall
Director, RMIT Business and Human Rights Centre
Tuesday 23 November, 2021
5:30 – 6:30pm
Surviving Covid-19 and a military coup as a garment worker:
How empirical studies of the experience of gendered garment production networks can fashion regulatory strategies of solidarity in the Economic-North.
Garment workers in Myanmar and Thailand are presented in starkly contrasting ways in the media: as downtrodden, oppressed workers toiling to produce cheap clothes for consumers in the West; and, as militant defenders of democracy against a military coup and illiberalism. Which one is true? And which should inform the types of regulatory strategies developed in the Economic-North to improve the conditions of these workers?
This paper is concerned with how, as women in the Economic-North, we can understand the experience of female garment workers in Thailand and Myanmar and conceive of our relationship with them via global garment production networks. It draws on empirical research conducted throughout the pandemic and the military coup in Myanmar, and participatory action research conducted in Thailand with garment workers and regulators prior to the pandemic. From this empirical starting point of perceptions, ambitions and tribulations shared by garment workers, it considers forms of ‘regulatory solidarity’. How can laws and policies in Australia and other countries in the Economic-North best contribute to improving the working conditions of these workers? Is the Modern Slavery Act and mandatory human rights due diligence as good as it gets, or can we do better by these women?