With an aim to ensure mental health and wellbeing, and address issues of gender-based violence free faced by women among women RMG workers, we have been working to create awareness, encourage dialogue, and promote mental health and wellbeing alongside physical health of women in this sector.
SAJIDA Foundation with support of SNV Bangladesh initiated “Working with Women: Phase 2” in January 2018 to train factory workers, mid-level management, welfare officers, as well as male garment workers on gender-based violence and its legal implications. Through such interventions, we aim to uphold the wellbeing and rights of women that make up the vast majority of the RMG industry.
While the garment industry contributed in economic empowerment of women, it failed to improve gender equality and female well-being.
Due to their brutal schedules, pregnant women in particular, suffer significant health problems, such as hypertension. This also takes an emotional toll on them. Yet most women, need the income and continue to work and hide their problems as long as possible, out of fear that if found out, supervisors will fire them.
Two out of five workers showed suicidal tendencies
Yet the factory health-care systems do not treat mental illness as a serious problem. In fact, most factories do not have any mental-health-care provisions at all for their workers. As a result, most women suffer in silence. SAJIDA Foundation commenced “Working With Women Phase II” project targeting approximately 3,500 women workers in two garment factories of Mirzapur Tangail and Naranyanganj with an aim to build systems of Para counselling and legal aid support in partner factories under the Power Plus model, in association with SNV Netherlands Development Organization in Bangladesh.
Our Progress So Far
Awareness sessions to RMG Workers
Maintaining a female to male ratio of 3:2 per session, 2248 garments workers were well oriented on Gender based violence, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and laws relevant to it. In addition, symptoms of mental illness, remedy of mental illness and referral system were discussed to equip them coping with stress in personal and professional stature.
Establish Anti-Harassment Committee
The factories receiving trainings worked on creating an anti-harassment committee to address GBV cases and build a community support system. A total of 58 committee members was trained to facilitate workers in difficulty. If the situations are not within the working periphery of the committee members, the workers will be referred to SAJIDA Foundation or any Professional centres where they will further intervene. Until June 2019, 14 cases of complaints were successfully resolved.
Train factory mid-level management
Sensitization of the factory mid-level management is the key to successful completion and sustainability of the awareness or interventions. Consequently, 52-factory mid-level management are trained on gender-based violence and mental health wellbeing.
Provide Training of Trainers (TOT) to Welfare Officers
To work as para counsellors and provide psychological counselling support for factory employees, 15 welfare officers were trained to identify cases through early detection and act appropriately to combat such issues. Subsequently, capacitating workers to resolve conflicts embrace positive communication and lead a healthy and productive life. Till date, 11 psychological group counselling sessions were made with 88 individuals case solving and 3 cases of referral.
Supervision of Para Counselling by Welfare Officers
21 days of supervision programmes were observed focusing on discussion about Mental Health, relaxation technique, techniques of self-care, 5 part model of CBT, Cost-benefit analysis technique, identifying emotions, thoughts, behaviour, role playing, how to maintain register, follow-up counselling session register and providing feedback.
Training of Mental Health First Aid to workers and Welfare Officers
To facilitate early detection and also understand the need of seeking psychological help 41 workers are trained on Mental Health First Aid on when to seek help and what to do as early measures and help prevent deterioration.
NEWS FROM WORKING WITH WOMEN PHASE 2
Ms. Fatema Khatun has been working as a Welfare Officer at a garment factory called Comfit Composite Knit Ltd. for the last two years. Her job responsibilities include looking after the female workers and their wellbeing, finding out if they have any grievances and giving advice to help them cope with or overcome issues they might be facing. She has been trained as a trainer under the Working with Women – Phase II project as a para counselor and she finds that this training has helped her work effectively with the issues she faces with garments workers. Before this training, Fatema was unaware of the concept of mental health and how severely one’s mental health can be affected by gender-based violence. Through this training, Fatema can now effectively provide help to anyone suffering mental pressures. For instance, she once had to provide counselling to a worker who missed work for twenty days due to gender-based violence. The worker came to work with a bruised arms, neck and face and informed Fatema that she had suffered the assault in the hands of her husband and had to flee from home, fearing for her life. Fatema was able to help the worker resume her job and provide her the mental support she needed to get her life back on track. Fatema hopes that she will be able to help people better in the future as now she has proper understanding of this concept and knows the tools to deal with gender-based violence, sexual harassment and related mental health issues