Improving Access to WASH for Ready-Made Garments (RMG) Workers in Bangladesh- SAJIDA Foundation &WaterAid Bangladesh Collaboration.

The RMG sector in 2014 has been reported to consume about 1,500 billion litres of groundwater. Factories are also under pressure for demonstrating their responsibility towards the environment and preparedness to adjust with climate change. In this precarious situation, SAJIDA Foundation, with the technical support of WaterAid Bangladesh and financial support from HSBC supply chain, commenced WASH interventions in August 2018 through “Addressing WASH crisis among RMG workers in Narayanganj Project” in Rupganj, Araihazar and Sonargaon Upazila of Narayanganj District. The project aimed to create improved WASH access for 10,000 RMG workers at factory level and the community they live in.

Project Activities

-To reduce ground water extraction, encourage ground water recharging with rainwater, and promote reduction in RMG factory water use costs
-To improve water, sanitation and hygiene services at household and community level for 3,000 workers and their family members
-To influence a positive change in the behavior of 10,000 workers at factories with awareness on basic hygiene – handwashing, sanitation, water safety plan, food hygiene, and menstrual hygiene management

Project Highlights

Initially, community mobilization carried out the process of gathering data for potential WASH facility installation and renovation where mobilizers held 146 meetings with community dwellers to inform them about the scope of work, benefits and also the role they would play as community members in the implementation of projects. To further supplement this, 121 consultation meetings were also arranged to finalize the implementation of the project. To aid their growth, SAJIDA Foundation renovated 92 latrines and water points in the project area. The organization also installed 92 new handwashing devices and conducted numerous water quality and monitoring tests. These services covered 3,362 individuals. Finally, to ensure proper maintenance of WASH facilities, project engineers conducted 4 caretaker training sessions.

Awareness Boosting Activities

In order to spread awareness among RMG workers, Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) sessions were implemented in all 3 factories, reaching 577 participants. Similarly, the hygiene session and food hygiene campaign were also carried out with 2,498 RMG workers participating in the campaign. The strategy was to carry out multiple frequent events and sessions to keep up the momentum of spreading awareness and practicing good WASH habits. Further events like Handwashing sessions and training for change agents supplemented this awareness drive. Two Rainwater Harvesting Systems have been installed at Fakir Fashion Ltd. and Metro Knitting and Dyeing Mills Ltd. while handwashing facilities have been renovated at all three factories: Next Accessories Ltd., Esquire Knit Composite Ltd., and Fakir Fashion Ltd.
Three factories of the upazilas making up a RMG workforce of 10,000 individuals made use of three important yearly occasions that proved to be highly effective in raising awareness among the participating beneficiaries.

The Road Ahead 

With the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) as a supporting member of this project, we aspire to further establish WASH practices as part of compliance in garments factories. Also, since most garment workers are women, the addition of water, hygiene, improved menstrual hygiene practices and inclusive toilets can be part of factory compliance processes as well. Going forward, the project aims to conduct training at different levels, continue conducting more water quality tests and construct or renovate WASH facilities in community levels. Finally a research has been planned to monitor the impact of WASH interventions in RMG factories and communities.