A project to reduce workplace violence against women working in export-oriented garment factories in Bangladesh and India has won a three-year grant from the United Nations Trust Fund.

The initiative will be implemented in Tirupur and Bangalore India, and Dhaka, Bangladesh, starting in autumn 2011, and is being coordinated by the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) and four partner organisations.

According to FWF, recent research estimates that 60% of women in the garment industry have experienced some form of harassment, verbal abuse or physical abuse.

India and Bangladesh both have legal frameworks to prevent and address workplace violence, but full implementation of these laws in the garment industry has been hampered by several factors, including the complexity of apparel supply chains.

The new project will pilot ways to implement existing laws at the factory level through enhanced labour monitoring and remediation systems. One of its main focuses will be on improving relationships between workers, export-oriented garment factories, and the European companies that outsource to them.

To improve the chances of success, business, labour, government and non-profit organisations will all help to design and guide the project, ensuring buy-in from all stakeholder groups.

Up to 90% of workers in some garment factories are women. A high percentage of women workers are also employed in other export-oriented industries, so a key long-term aim is to establish best practices which can be implemented in other industries and countries around the world.

"The benefits to women of a workplace without violence are clear and immediate, and an issue of respect for fundamental human rights," said Erica Van Doorn, director of Fair Wear Foundation.

"Factories also benefit from reducing violence and improving dialogue with workers, which can lead to better morale and increased productivity. As corporate social responsibility concerns among clothing brands grow, factories with functioning anti-violence systems will have a competitive advantage in the international marketplace."

The project will be implemented by SAVE and Cividep in India and by AMRF Society and Awaj Foundation in Bangladesh.