Vol. 5 Num 1137 Fri. August 10, 2007  

Reproductive Health Rights of Garment Workers
'Step up health and safety measures in factories'

Speakers at a dialogue yesterday stressed the need to strengthen health and safety measures in the garment factories to protect the reproductive health rights of workers.

They also called for improving the relationship between the factory owners and workers.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and UNFPA jointly organised the policy dialogue on 'Reproductive Rights, Health and Gender Situation of Garment Workers' at a city hotel under a project titled 'Promotion of Reproductive Health, Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in the Garment Sector'.

Delivering the welcome speech, BGMEA President Anwar-ul-Alam Chowdhury said about 24 lakh workers are working in different factories under the BGMEA and 85 percent of them are women.

He suggested forming a working team comprising owners and workers to improve the garment sector.

Prof Mahmuda Islam, president of Women for Women, said the gender gap has narrowed in some cases and lots of women have now control over income and decision-making due to the empowerment of women. But at the same time, the gender gap has widened in several sectors such as health, and the women's health status is still in critical shape, she added.

Prof Ishrat Shamim, president of the Centre for Women and Children Studies, presented the keynote paper highlighting reproductive health status and the condition of garment workers and the factories and placed some recommendations, including providing health education to the workers.

The speakers urged the authorities to create women-friendly environment in the factories so that pregnant women workers could get support from her fellow colleagues.

Representatives from trade unions and rights organisations said the allocation for workers' welfare in the national budget has remained unutilised for the last several years. This amount should be used through the BGMEA to protect the health rights of workers.

More women doctors should also be appointed in the factories, they added.

Assistant Representative of UNFPA Nurul Ameen, Project Director Sharfuddin Ahmed Sharif and President of Karmojibi Nari Shirin Akhter also spoke.