‘NIRAPOD: Saving Women from Unwanted Pregnancies and unsafe MR project’was conceptualised on the assessment that women workers’ health remains a critical area of investment in the readymade garments industry. And after investigating the matter thoroughly it was found that the productivity of the workers in garments factories can increase up to 13% if investment is made on their reproductive health. This information was revealed in a report of a research that was conducted for a year by private development firm Phulki, on leading garments factories located in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Gazipur.
With assistance of the Embassy of Netherlands through the project ‘Nirapod,’ this information was announced at a workshop held at a restaurant in the capital. Present as the Chief Guest at the event was Leoni Margartha Cuekenaere, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Also present among others were, First Secretary, Ella de Voodge, Phulki Chairman Rashidul Hassan, Senior Vice President of BGMEA Faruque Hassan, etc.
Netherlands Ambassador Leoni M Cuekenaere said that in garments factories, trainings held on awareness helps to increase productivity. He praised the work undertaken by Phulki for the last 3 years and said that after the training, the report published after a survey of the research shows that 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.
The Objective of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands funded Nirapod project was to develop capacities and raise awareness among the workers and their managers regarding reproductive health and hygiene, unwanted pregnancy, unsafe MR and abortion. As part of a consortium, Phulki implemented the project in RMG factories.
Phulki had started implementing the ‘Nirapod: Saving Women from Unwanted Pregnancies and Unsafe MR’ since 2012. The project provided reproductive health, including menstrual health, education in order to reduce the prevalence of STI/STDs, develop protection against HIV/AIDS, reduce unplanned pregnancies and to increase demand for safe MR practices and contraception among garment workers. The Nirapod project also raised awareness about violence against women, ill effects of early marriage for bringing about a reduction in their prevalence. The education imparted is expected to positively change health and hygiene behaviour of the workers directly benefiting them through an improvement in their health. The project makes use of clinical services provided by other NGOs for referral for the garment workers in case of need. The results are also expected to translate into enhanced quality of life of workers in the garment factories where the project intervenes.
As an outcome of the improvement in workers’ awareness and behaviour, the Nirapod project was expected to result in more hygienic environment, better health of workers and enhanced productivity garment factories. The results are expected to manifest in reduced absenteeism, attrition and turnover in garment factories, contributing to increased ability of suppliers to meet buyers’ expectations and deadlines and thus result in profit for factories.
A demonstrated gain for the factory owners is expected to encourage them to facilitate providing such services to their workers in the future .This study was commissioned in order to develop the case for such investment, with the intention of using it for advocacy with service providers and garment factory owners and management.
The study intends to find out whether if a sexual and reproductive health education programme were to be implemented among garment workers:
• Is the factory an effective implementation unit for such programmes, i.e. is it possible to significantly enhance knowledge level so as to effecting a behavioural change among the factory workers, and
• Will there be any significant return on the investment from the business profitability perspective so that factories would be induced to invest into such services. It is expected that if the factories observe such benefits they would maintain or expand such programmes, though the later is beyond the scope of this study.