Bad jeans: time for us to wear our feminist ideals on our sleeves


Bad jeans: time for us to wear our feminist ideals on our sleeves

An empowering opportunity has been grossly perverted by pervasive sexual predation in textile factories

Paula Andropoulos

Unbeknown to many of us, Lesotho’s capital city of Maseru is home to a spate of factories that produce jeans for well-known denim brands such as Levi’s and Wrangler, among others. Indeed, the manufacture of denim for export is one of the most lucrative formal sectors in Lesotho, and, according to Reuters, provides jobs for about 40,000 African nationals.

Textile work is one of the very few industries that’s hospitable to women; that is, it is one of only a handful of factory environments that is not by definition entirely male-dominated.

But what could have been a comparatively empowering opportunity for the women of Maseru has been grossly perverted by a pervasive culture of sexual manipulation and assault within these factories, a scourge that is only now coming to light. As per an article published in September by The Guardian, a 2019 report by an NGO – the Workers Right Consortium – found that the women employed by these garment mills were expected to tolerate and turn a blind eye to the rape and sexual harassment being perpetrated on a regular basis by the factory bosses. Apparently, a great part of the problem derives from the fact that a significant portion of this resilient workforce is, for the most part, hired on a strictly informal basis. “Dailies”, or itinerant workers, wait tenaciously outside the factory gates every morning in the hopes of being selected to fill a vacancy as a cutter or machinist...

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