On 7th January, 2017, SNV and Prothom Alo, leading national daily in the country joinly arranged a roundtable discussion on the role of relevant stakeholders in ensuring Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) to Ready Made Garment (RMG) workers.
The aim of the roundtable was to start a dialogue among government officials, BGMEA representatives, media personnel, factory owners, workers, and NGOs in a discussion to more effectively implement Working with Women Project.
Working with Women Project, with funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is implemented a project to address SRHR of RMG workers. The project is implementing 10 IB models in collaboration with 10 local service providers and private organisations. Khaled Ahmed, Senior SRHR expert, Working with Women project, presented the keynote paper at the discussion.
Among others, Ms Shirin Akhter, Member of the Parliament; Mr. Mikail Shipar, Secretary, Ministry of Labor and Employment; Md. Shamsuzzaman Bhuiyan, Additional Inspector General, Department of Inspection for Factories & Establishment; Mr. Md. Siddiqur Rahman, President, BGMEA; Jason Belanger, Country Director, SNV Bangladesh participated in the roundtable discussion.
“As development budgets are shrinking in Bangladesh, these stakeholders will need to take ownership of workers’ wellbeing and address their SRHR issues”, said Mushfiqua Zaman Satiar, Senior Adviser- SRHR and Gender.
Discussants at the roundtable emphasized on specific roles each stakeholder can play in order to ensure rights of garment workers to have these accesses to such facilities, especially given the taboo that exists around menstrual and sexual health of women in society. “Quite often, we can’t tell our male supervisors about SRHR problems because we shy away from it”, said Ms. Taslima Begum, a factory worker.
Mr. Siddiqur Rahman requested the media, government and other stakeholders to promote and cover good practices instead of only covering negative news about the RMG sector. “We have evolved in the last 3-4 years and become responsible businessmen. “BGMEA has a system now of lodging complaints. In fact, the authority has made BGMEA membership acquisition a thorough process of inspection. With some support from the government, we can not only take better care of our workers, but also ensure the 50 billion dollar export target by 2020”, he stated during his speech.
The fruitful dialogue ended with Mr. Mikail Shipar summarizing the key points. He suggested to integrate government involvement while planning projects so that such interventions can receive direct assistance from the GoB