Investment on reproductive health of RMG workers can increase productivity by 13%

It has been observed that the productivity of the workers in garments factories increases by 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, Narawanganj 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.

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 program for awareness of reproductive health was started, the rate of absence in her factory reduced by 95%. Similar comments were made by representatives of DBL Group and Giant Group.

Funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) Through the project “Nirapod” saving unwanted pregnancy and un safe MR Nirapad project Phulki has already successfully reached 90 thousand workers creating awareness about sexual reproductive health issues and importance of menstrual hygiene.

Although Bangladesh has made significant achievements in some sectors of health care, 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 of Bangladesh has huge contribution for women’s economic empowerment. Ms.Ella de Voodge first secretary of Netherland embassy has a key role that has been actively taken initiative and inducting programs 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 ( Source- SNV, The Daily Star Round table)

Initiative taken by brands to motivate the policy makers to incorporate and focus more on the SRHR issues will also help to make the SRHR program more sustainable in the RMG sector.

If the garment owners take up scheme on their own and be more compassionate towards their worker’s 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.

DBL group was present in the program their success story can be taken as an example how addressing the workers  wellbeing and treating them like a family can only increase a company’s wealthy success.