The GlobalGRACE (WP2) Bangladesh team in collaboration with their research participants organized a one-day community festival on 26th February in Sylhet, Bangladesh. The festival was the culmination of our year-long workshops with our group of female construction worker participants. Our participants invited their family, friends, neighbours and co-workers as well as GlobalGRACE project co-directors and members of partner NGO IDEA for a wonderful celebration of their skills and creative creations through their short films, photography, and Worker’s Manifesto. The whole program was designed by our participants, including making invitation cards, choosing the lunch menu based on a traditional Bangladeshi wedding feast, and deciding the order of the day.
Our participants and their guests - over 200 people – began arriving early in the morning to the beautifully decorated community hall and gardens where they had chosen to hold the festival. In addition to breakfast and a banquet lunch, all the attendees enjoyed snacks of jhal muri (puffed rice) during the day. The husband of one participant, Nazma, sells jhal muri, to support the family and so he was invited to sell jhal muri as a snack during the festival. The main event started with a photography exhibition, inaugurated by GlobalGRACE project co-directors at the invitation of the participant female construction workers. The exhibition consisted of 12 photo stories depicting the lives and work of our participants and a display of their Worker’s Manifesto, a 14-point list of female construction worker’s rights collectively created by the participants.
Their manifesto demands are:
Equal pay for equal work
Fixed working hours
Payment for doing overtime
Financial support for the workers in case of accidents (at workplace and on the way to and from the workplace)
Government should take a strict line against sexual harassment at the workplace
Taking safety measures at the workplace (e.g. using helmet, gloves, mask, high visibility jacket, boots etc.)
One meal from the recruiter
Two short breaks during the working day
Issuing ID cards for the workers to protect them from unwanted harassment (on way back home especially when they work until very late at night)
Low cost housing facilities
Access to pure drinking water and sanitation facilities
Ensuring that the contractors give workers the promised wages
Promoting gender equality at all levels
Establishing a Labour Welfare Board (with offices in all cities) to take care of the demands/needs of the workers
After lunch, 12 participatory short films collaboratively created by our participants were showcased in the festival. Our participants developed the concepts of the films and worked with the support of the research team to document their own and fellow participants’ lives. After the film showing, they celebrated with music, song and dance. Alongside professional singers, our participants performed traditional songs and their children enjoyed taking part and performing their own songs and dances on stage, ending by collectively telling the audience how much they loved their mothers and how proud they are of their mother’s work and sacrifices in raising them. Our participants said afterwards that they thoroughly enjoyed their festival and were so happy that people could see what they have produced. They said that their participation in the project has been a great experience so far. GloablGRACE project co-directors and the WP2 research team want to thank our participants for the privilege of working closely together over the past year. We are so proud of what they have created, and the community festival gave us a great opportunity to meet their families and friends and to see these participants’ confidence and deserved pride in their work.