Sexual and reproductive health of garment workers is of key importance and must be acknowledged and addressed, health activists said during a seminar held last week.
The seminar “Media Sensitisation: Value Creation in RMG through embedding Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in factories and the need for positive marketing” was organised by the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation’s “Working With Women” project. It was held at BGMEA center last Wednesday.
“SRHR as a topic needs to come out to the public,” said Dr Nazneen Akhter, senior lecturer at North South University while presenting her keynote speech at the seminar.
She added: “We need to get rid of the jargon, and simplify it so that a garment worker can take ownership of the term and say that it is their issue as well.”
Along with Dr Naznee, Shariful Islam, founder of Bangladesh Brand Forum also presented the keynote paper in the seminar, followed by an open discussion session among journalists and hosts.
Engr Md Kawsar Ali, COO of Comfit Composite Ltd, shared his experience of the initiatives taken at his factory. Engr Kawser’s factory has set an exemplary record for volunteering to help SNV with their time on this project.
Members from Kawser’s factory, as well as Southeast Textiles Private Limited, another garment factory, were present during the SNV trainings, and also came forward to invest 60% in this project, according to a SNV representative.
“Often we see that due to lack of certain facilities available at the workplace, the workers become weak themselves,” said Kawser. “Then we lose them from the job market which in turn impedes on the growth of the entire industry.”
“The sector is already suffering because we’re losing a lot of potential workers,” he added, emphasising on the urgent need to address sexual and reproductive health needs of female garment workers, who make up the majority of the garment workforce.
Ashrafur Rahman Ranju, COO, Millennium Textile and Faruque Hassan, senior vice-president, BGMEA were also present at the seminar. Faruque shared remarks from BGMEA about the project and urged the journalists to promote good practices in the RMG sector in order to stimulate growth of the industry.