The pathways between female garment workers’ experience of violence and development of depressive symptoms

The prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) is high (54%) in Bangladesh. Moreover, female garment workers report higher rates of IPV and are also vulnerable to workplace violence (WPV). Experience of violence puts women at increased risk of developing depressive symptoms, which are related with low self-esteem, lower life satisfaction and lower productivity. To our knowledge, there has been no previous research on depression among female garment workers and its connections to IPV and WPV in Bangladesh. This paper aims to address this gap by studying the relationship of IPV, WPV and depression among female garment workers.

The data for this paper comes from a cross-sectional survey of female garment workers (n = 800) conducted as baseline survey of a quasi-experimental study known as HERrespect. Survey data were collected during September-December, 2016 among randomly selected female garment workers from eight garment factories in and around Dhaka city. Structural equation modelling was conducted to explore the relationship among IPV, WPV and depression.


The findings show high rates of any IPV (69%); WPV (73%, experienced or witnessed) and depressive symptomatology (40%) among female garment workers. The analysis of pathways shows that IPV impacts a woman’s experience of WPV and work related stress leading to the development of depression; while WPV had direct and mediated pathways to depression. Experience of controlling by their husband leads to WPV and increased work related stress, and thus leads to depression. It also reveals that a worker’s ability to mobilize resources in emergency, however, increased self-esteem and reduced work related stress.

This study shows the pathways through which experience of IPV and WPV lead to development of depressive symptoms among female garment workers. The link between women’s ability to mobilize resources with self-esteem and work related stress indicates the need for socio-economic empowerment of women and may suggest that combined intervention to address IPV and women’s empowerment could be successful in dealing with WPV and mental health.


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