It has been observed that the productivity of the workers in garments factories increases by 13 per cent if investment is made on their reproductive health. This information has been revealed by a study conducted by private development firm Phulki on leading garments factories in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Gazipur for a year.
With assistance of the Embassy of Netherlands through the project Nirapod, this information was announced at a workshop held at a Dhaka hotel on Wednesday.
Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Leoni Margartha Cuekenaere attended the event as chief guest, while First Secretary Ella de Voodge, Phulki Chairman Rashidul Hassan, BGMEA Senior Vice President Faruque Hassan were present among others.
Netherlands Ambassador Leoni M Cuekenaere said that awareness building trainings in garments factories help increase productivity of the workers. He praised the work undertaken by Phulki in the last three years and said that after the training, referring to the research findings, the women who are employed in the garments industry have now been able to overcome shame, hesitation and social pressure. They are now more aware of their reproductive health.
After the report was published some workers and factory owners shared their experience. Antata Garments Limited's Associate Director Sarah Nafisa Kakoli said that after the programme for awareness of reproductive health was started, the rate of absence in her factory reduced by 95 per cent. Similar comments were made by representatives of DBL Group and Giant Group.
Through the project 'Nirapod' Phulki has already successfully reached 90 thousand workers creating awareness about sexual reproductive health issues and importance of menstrual hygiene and saving unwanted pregnancy.
Although Bangladesh has made significant achievements in some sectors of healthcare, the maternal mortality rate (MMR) remains high at 194 deaths per 100,000 births. The high MMR means there are about 8,000 to 10,000 women dying from pregnancy, unsafe abortion or childbirth complications every year. In Bangladesh, most of the poor and vulnerable women lack access to, and awareness of, SRH services, including family planning and safe menstrual regulation (MR), safe pregnancy, pregnancy spacing, personal hygiene, antenatal care, safe delivery and neonatal/postnatal care due to financial, cultural or geographical barriers.
Phulki working in the 'Nirapod' project for last three years addressing SRHR issues took an initiative to conduct a study where we can see the monetary effects in participating in doing something for the well-being of an organization's employees. After all, they are the root of the success of the RMG sector of Bangladesh.
Indeed, the RMG sector in Bangladesh has huge contribution to women's economic empowerment. Ms Ella de Voodge, First secretary of Netherland Embassy, has a key role in taking initiative and inducting programmes to address SRHR issue all over Bangladesh.
It has come out quite clearly from the study calculation of return on investment indicates that for each taka spent for the intervention the factory stands to gain up to about 13.3 taka in productivity gains. While a study by SNV shows that the RMG sector incurs loss of about USD 22.5 million per annum due to this absenteeism.
Initiative taken by brands to motivate the policy-makers to incorporate and focus more on the SRHR issues will also help make the SRHR programme more sustainable in the RMG sector.
If the factory owners take up scheme on their own and be more compassionate towards their workers' health, it is not only appreciated but also increases profitability as workers feel their ownership in the company rather than just a job. The strategy of developing in-house capacity within the RMG factories could enhance the chances of sustainability of the initiative that Phulki has taken.
The success story of the DBL Group can be taken as an example as to how to address the workers' wellbeing and treating them like family members. This can contribute to a company's growth as well.