Surviving Covid-19 and a military coup as a garment worker

Event status:

Online public lecture to launch the Women in Asia Conference 2021

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Tuesday 23 November 2021 05:30 pm until Tuesday 23 November 2021 06:30 pm (Add to calendar)
La Trobe Asia
Presented by:
La Trobe Asia
Type of Event:
Public Lecture; Public

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

Presented by Associate Professor Shelley Marshall - Director of the RMIT Business and Human Rights Centre @RMIT and Sara Todt, RMIT doctoral candidate.

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?

This public lecture is sponsored by La Trobe Asia and is the opening event of the Women in Asia Conference 2021 hosted by La Trobe University.

The conference will be held at La Trobe's City Campus for those who wish attend in-person and online for all other participants.

About the speakers:

Associate Professor Shelley Marshall is the Director of the RMIT Business and Human Rights Centre.  She has worked in corporate accountability and business and human rights for 25 years, with a focus on the labour condition of vulnerable workers and modern slavery. Her research has informed labour law reform in several countries and the policies of the International Labour Organisation. For example, over 2018-19 she made frequent trips to Thailand to advise the Thai Ministry of Labour on how to enforce labour laws for home-based workers. Shelley was a co-founder of the Australian Corporate Accountability Network, which has over 100 civil society and academic members from across Australia, and is on its Steering Committee.  Her most recent book is titled ‘Living Wage’ published by Oxford University Press.

Sara Tödt is a doctoral candidate at RMIT University in Melbourne. Her doctoral thesis considers the effect of the interactions of global value chains and local gender dynamics on the lives of garment workers in Myanmar. Prior to commencing her PhD candidature Sara worked in PR and communication in Sweden. Sara is a contributing member of RMIT’s Business and Human Right’s Centre and manages the centres social media channels.



8th Dec 2021 12:21pm

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