One year of Inclusive Business (IB) models: through the lens of Working with Women project
Six IB models were launched on 25 August 2015. In the last year, the project has relentlessly worked to establish a sustainable solution to the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of 3.5 million female Ready Made Garments (RMG) workers.
In the continuous effort to improve lives of the low-income population, four other business models were launched later, stretching the endeavor to ten business models in total- establishing service points and looking for viable, impactful sustainable solution.The last one year presented continuous hurdles for the project. As the first Inclusive Business initiative in Bangladesh, SNV has been working to create a supply and demand mechanism of SRHR products and services. The factory management were sensitized about the importance of SRHR in order to create awareness, since SRHR is still considered a taboo issue and most people are still unaware of the benefits of addressing SRHR issues of their workers. Working with Women team has relentlessly alleviated all challenges and successfully strengthened partnerships between implementing organizations and factory management. While the project initially aimed to work with 10 factories, a total of 20 factories joined hands with the project.
A little more than 20,000 workers are currently availing services under the IB initiatives. Some of the implementing partners have established new facilities near factory proximity. Others have strengthened their existing facility and equipped service points in order to deliver effective and quality SRHR service. This is a result of Working with Women project’s IB trainings for the service providers and private sectors.
Awareness sessions are being organized within the factory, and stretched to community initiatives. The workers in the implementing factories are better informed. Quality SRHR services and products have been made available, affordable, and accessible for female workers at their doorstep. In addition to SRHR of female workers, the implementing partners have extended services to the male workers too.
Amongst all its triumphs, the Working with Women project has significantly addressed the unmet need of family planning contraceptives along with increased scope of maternal care. In addition, safe MR Service has been introduced in the facilities and provisions have been made available for RTI/STI treatment. Orientation on menstrual hygiene has been also instrumental in creating a supply and demand mechanism for keeping the female workers healthy and functional during menstruation.
A roundtable was held at The Daily Star center to discuss merits and challenges in ensuring SRHR access through health insurance. The discussion was enlightening not only in terms of reaching project goals, but also in terms of creating awareness among different stakeholders about SRHR of RMG workers.
The partners have been receiving perpetual segments of coaching and mentoring from the project team. Working with Women continues to stand on top of all activities, challenges, monitoring of IB models. Capacity building of RMG factories and service providers has been top priority for the project.
In the remaining months, the project aims to refine the IB models based on the past one year’s learning.