Photo courtesy: GIZ BD
On In August 2015of last year, an MoU was signed in Mirpur among the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP), Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarberit (GIZ). The MoU was to establish a first of its kind Inclusive Job Center. Since 2014, 174 factories have come on board to help disabled workers find jobs.
The initiative is taken by Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards of the Industry (PSES), and a joint project of the governments of Bangladesh and Germany. PSES is implemented by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
“We officially began in October 2015, and by December we were fully-functioning. We have already placed around 108 disabled workers 54 45 factories for various jobs,” says Sarwat Ahmad, Senior Advisor, PSES. Promotion of Social and Environmental Standard, PSES, GIZ.
The aim of the Inclusive Job Centre is to hold skills training and increase employment and career opportunities in the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) industry for persons with disabilities. The main roles of the centre consists of operating as a platform for advisory services, information sharing, capacity building, and job search based on individual needs and capabilities, and also to establish a referral network. GIZ takes the responsibility for the initial coordination and capacity building of all the actors involved, while there is a team of professionals lead by the manager of the job center. They are in charge of rehabilitation services, quality vocational training, advisory services for garments factories, career counseling, job placement, on-the-job coaching, and reasonable workplace adjustments.
These activities are backed by the proficiency of experts from NGO partners in the field of disability inclusion. The main objectives to institute establish the inclusive job centre are to recognise and appoint people with disabilities for skills training, to link them with referral network, to improve disability inclusiveness in factories, and to promote inclusive workforce in the RMG sector.
“The process is a lengthy but fruitful one. We go from community to community with the support of the Disabled Peoples' Organisations to identify persons with disabilities. It is a little difficult, as many families see a person with disability as a curse in rural areas and do not want to expose them to the public. This is precisely why we hold counseling sessions with the community members to sensitise them about the issue. Next, once we have selected our candidates, they go through an inclusive skills development and training. Meanwhile, we try to give them assistive devices based on the kind of disability they have, for example hearing-aids, artificial limbs, crutch etc. We also go for frequent factory visits to not only see what kind of demands the factory owners have, but also to sensitise them on the matter of disability. Centre for Disability in Development, another Non-Governmental Organisation partner of the Project PSES, is doing a commendable job in this regard with us, as they are going from factory to factory, not only spreading awareness, and capacity building, but also making the environment friendlier for those with disabilities,” says Sarwat “Once the workers are placed, there is regular job retention counseling support for the workers. There are many instances when the workers feel shy to express certain complaints, this counseling sessions are arranged to help them relax in their work environment and do their jobs with ease.”
So far, the responses from the workers have been great. They have worked with sincerity, since, for most of them, to be able to work at all was a dream.
By engaging its members, BGMEA can make a significant change in the dynamics of the workforce through this Inclusive Job Centre. The garment's industry bears the shortage of a skilled workforce; BGMEA has been supporting the inclusive job centre in the process of skills development and job placement of persons with disabilities to meet the demands of the sector successfully. “The one thing we have achieved is that migration rates have decreased drastically. None of the workers we have placed wants to leave the job,” says Sarwat. The Inclusive Job Centre uses the understandings and strong network of CRP in the RMG sector and with other stakeholders in establishing a disability inclusive RMG Labour Market.
The Inclusive Job Centre considers the public private partnership towards an inclusive RMG workforce by creating links between skills training and employment opportunities for an untapped workforce of persons with disabilities.
“We have been working with the Government and the NSDC secretariat has shown interest in replicating our job centre and establishing one in each district. What we are currently trying to do is coming up with a sustainability plan for the future. Our first phase ends in June 2017, and by then we're hoping to create an immense amount of awareness. The factories and disabled workers have shown a lot of interest in carrying this forward. The one thing we require is more sewing schools for skills training, and since the government has always been supportive of working with the disabled, we are really hoping for their further assistance. With such support, I'm sure we can all, together, carry the nation forward leaving no one behind,” concludes Sarwat.