USAID signs deal to help Bangladeshi women workers

The United States has announced a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a consortium of U.S. retail, apparel, and footwear companies and industry associations to pursue much-needed relief to the predominantly female workers in their supply-chains in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.

USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick signed the MoU on behalf of USAID, and Steve Lamar, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, signed it on behalf of the consortium.

The announcement came at the U.S. government’s third annual Indo-Pacific Business Forum hosted virtually out of Hanoi, Vietnam, the US aid agency said.

The MoU establishes intent for USAID and the consortium to work together over the coming year to alleviate hardships faced by such workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Such efforts, in collaboration with local partners, will aim to create a more resilient apparel, footwear, and fashion-accessories (AFFA) sector and workforce, enhance the rights and welfare of workers in AFFA factories, and empower women in the AFFA workforce, the USAID said in a statement.

The participating companies and industry associations are Carter’s, Inc.; Gap, Inc.; Global Brands Group; Levi Strauss & Company; Nike; Tapestry; Target; VF Corporation; Walmart; the American Apparel and Footwear Association; the National Retail Federation; the Retail Industry Leaders Association; and the U.S. Fashion Industry Association.

With unprecedented speed and scale, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on global supply-chains, disrupting trade and investment, putting frontline workers at risk, and eliminating the jobs of millions of other workers, especially women.

The apparel, footwear, and fashion-accessories (AFFA) sector in Asia has been among the most-affected industries, challenged by constraints on supply and demand that arose from stay-at-home orders, temporary closures of businesses, stoppages in production, backlogs in shipment, and cargo delays.