This year’s World Health Day (7 April) focuses on ensuring universal health coverage for everyone, everywhere. The Ready Made Garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh employs almost 4 million workers who often suffer from health issues such as malnutrition, communicable diseases and pregnancy complications. On World Health Day 2018, we are reminded that improving the health and well-being of workers is a critical contributor to progress and prosperity in the garment industry in Bangladesh.
Ensuring garment workers' access to quality and sustainable health services and products, especially those related to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), still represents a challenge in Bangladesh. Since 2014, the Working with Women project is addressing this challenge by improving access to health facilities and SRHR of garment workers through Inclusive Business models (IB). Today’s World Health Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on our achievements in improving health and well-being of garment workers, including SRHR.
Funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Working with Women pilot phase (2014-2017) implemented 10 Inclusive Business models in 20 factories. This pilot phase delivered improved and affordable gender-friendly health services to more than 30,000 workers, with 15,000 workers subscribing to health insurance plans. Additionally, this pilot phase contributed to a 662% rise in SRHR service accessibility.
The second phase of the project, officially launched on 11 March 2018, aims to further strengthen the capacity of the RMG industry and private sector to design and implement self-sustaining SRHR solutions. Drawing on SNV’s extensive experience in engaging with business, the second phase of the project (2017-2021) will integrate three Inclusive Business models in 10 partner factories to deliver win-win solutions for businesses and their workforce. The project will also promote access to health facilities for garment workers in 200 factories.
While the pilot phase focused only on the partner factories, the second phase of the project will use a collaborative approach to set the stage for a sectoral change in the RMG industry. Three critical elements will be considered in order to achieve this goal:
- Workplace policies: implementation of workplace policies on SRHR and health in garment factories by identifying knowledge gaps and by providing capacity building support.
- Inclusive Business models: implementation of three Inclusive Business Models focusing on SRHR in 10 partner factories.
- Private sector engagement: introduction of innovative health products/services for garment worker through the creation of new partnerships, mechanism of capacity building for developing IB models into the market.
For garment workers to achieve universal access to health, all the actors involved must play a role: from factories, to companies. and governments. On World Health Day, we reflect on our achievements without forgetting those garment workers who continue to struggle for access to convenient, gender-friendly and affordable health services and products.