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.
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
Orientation on GBV and Mental Health
To create awareness about Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Mental Health Well-being, 1,492 garment workers were given an orientation during the year. Topics included Gender Based Violence and relevant laws, symptoms and remedy for mental illness, along with referral systems for coping with stress in personal and professional arena.
Para-Counseling by Welfare Officers
In order to address mental health issues of RMG workers and ensure their mental health well-being, para-counsellors conducted 78 sessions during the year. Psychosocial Counsellors conducted 21 days of supervised programs for capacity building of para-counselors.
Refresher on Para-Counseling
During the year, 15 welfare officers participated in a 2-day refresher for para counsellors. The aim was to conceptualize basic components of para-counselling to both newly appointed welfare officers and to employees who have previously received Training of Trainers (TOT).
Services by Psycho-Social Counsellors
Psycho-social counselling provides services both for factory staffs and referral workers to ensure their mental health well-being to help them work efficiently. During the year, 28 psycho-social counselling sessions were conducted by the counsellors to promote well-being.
Training Mid-Level Factory Management
For sensitization of the factory mid-level staffs on gender-based violence and mental health well-being, 106 mid-level staffs were trained on gender-based violence and mental health wellbeing during the fiscal year.
Establishing Anti-Harassment Committee
To address the issues of gender-based violence, anti-harassment committee has been established. This year, 11 committee members were trained to facilitate workers to address gender-based issues. During this time Committee members dealt with 30 complaints.
Positive Changes Observed
- Number of workers coming to welfare officers for mental health support and counseling session have increased
- Workers coming forward to anti-harassment committee to resolve gender-based violence have increased
- Workers are now aware about bad mental health indicators
- Absenteeism rates are decreasing day by day, reducing resignation rates
- Relationship between worker and factory management have strengthened
Based upon gap management and counselling, an hour-long refresher for 3,500 workers has been planned, alongside a 2-day long refresher on para counselling for welfare officers. Psychological counselling sessions for psycho social counsellors and para-counselling sessions for referral cases have also been planned. Regular supervision and follow up for para counsellors and AHC members will also be conducted by Psycho social counsellor. Furthermore, in order to maintain proper assessment, anti-harassment committee members have been assigned to manage complaints. In the coming year, World Mental Health Day and Gender-based Violence campaign shall be observed by program officials.
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