• Friday, August 14, 2020

Bangladesh university turning women garment workers into leaders

Discussion in 'Bangladesh Defence Forum' started by Tom-tom, Aug 2, 2020.

  1. Tom-tom

    Tom-tom FULL MEMBER

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    Bangladesh university turning women garment workers into leaders
    Special programme aims to inspire female workers to become leaders and boost women's rights across industries.

    23 hours ago
    Five years ago, Sadeka Begum was working 12-hour shifts in a garment factory as the main earner for her family in Bangladesh.

    Today, the 23-year-old is one of the first graduates of a special university programme that aims to inspire female workers to become leaders and boost women's rights across industries.

    Begum now interns for the United Nations children's fund (UNICEF) and hopes to use her economics degree to launch a project to improve the lives of the children of Bangladeshi textile workers by addressing a lack of schooling and childcare.

    "I am an example of how education can change a person," said Begum, one of four former garment workers to graduate from the Pathways for Promise course at the Asian University for Women (AUW) - based in the southeastern port city of Chittagong.

    "Garment workers are the reason why Bangladesh's economy is doing well," she added. "Their children deserve better."

    About 470 disadvantaged women including tea pickers and refugees have enrolled for the free degree programme since it started in 2016, and receive a monthly stipend while they study.

    Dozens of ex-textile workers are part of the cohort and the AUW's vice chancellor, Nirmala Rao, said the university was involved in creating internships to tackle a "dearth of female middle and senior managers" in Bangladesh's garment industry.


    Bangladesh economy: Tens of thousands of people left jobless (2:17)


    While up to 80 percent of garment workers are women in largely junior positions such as seamstresses, the majority of senior management positions are taken by men, UN data shows.

    Rubana Huq, who heads the nation's largest trade association for garment manufacturers and was also involved in designing the academic course, said seeing the graduates take on management positions in the sector would inspire other women to dream big.

    "They have different exposure and their outlooks are very fresh," Huq told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "They will be able to contribute to how we look at female empowerment."

    Workers' rights at risk
    Bangladesh is the world's second-largest supplier of clothes to Western countries after China, and relies on the garment industry for more than 80 percent of exports and four million jobs.

    But the sector has been rocked in recent years - first by the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse on the outskirts of Dhaka that killed 1,136 workers, then by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

    The 2013 disaster sparked efforts to improve labour rights and conditions but the coronavirus outbreak led to thousands of garment workers being laid off in recent months as Western fashion brands cancelled orders due to global store closures.

    As workers push for overdue wages and the jobless seek to find work, the AUW graduates want to help steady the sector and push for change by rising through the ranks of management.

    "I want to see everyone with the same eye, it doesn't matter what category someone's working in," said former factory packer Yesmin Akther. "I want people to behave well towards workers."

    A recent report by a United States's Senate committee found Bangladesh was backsliding on garment workers' rights. Union leaders faced intimidation, hampering their ability to investigate claims of threats and abuse - mainly from female workers - the report said.

    Factory owners dismissed the findings of the report as inaccurate while local researchers said verbal abuse of workers was more prevalent across smaller factories and subcontractors.

    Students from across Asia, Middle East
    The university, funded by donors including the IKEA Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has female students from across Asia and the Middle East pursuing degrees in subjects such as public health, philosophy and politics.

    The students from the garment sector receive full pay - worth about $100 a month - from their employers while studying.

    This proves vital as their families rely on the income, according to the AUW, which said it had persuaded several factory owners to back the initiative and allow some of their brightest female workers to leave the workplace for five years.

    The former textile workers, who had to pass a rigorous entrance exam for a place on their courses, said adapting to academic life was challenging as was improving their English.

    I am an example of how education can change a person.
    SADEKA BEGUM, GARMENT WORKER

    One of the graduates said she used to "just stare at people" at the start because her English was not good enough, while another recalled practising the language in front of the mirror.

    Dipali Khatun, who is set to graduate in December, said her ambition was to work for a charity or to return to the garment sector in a human resources role where she could make a difference.

    "I would ... ensure that there is no bad behaviour against any garment worker," she said.

    Kalpona Akter, founder of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, said she hoped all the garment worker graduates would return to the sector rather than seek other opportunities.

    "If the 100 girls who are studying get into 100 factories, that can bring change because they have seen how difficult lives are for workers," Akter said. "If they join other industries, they will be empowered, but that won't help our situation."

    Yesmin Akther is one such graduate who wants to give back.

    "My factory paid me for the last four years and supported me so I could study," the 23-year-old said. "Given the chance, I would like to do something good in return."

    upload_2020-8-2_8-58-13.jpeg
    SOURCE: REUTERS NEWS AGENCY
     
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  2. DalalErMaNodi

    DalalErMaNodi FULL MEMBER

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    Hope to see more female industry leaders and entrepreneurs emerging from this university.

    I've seen the campus, looks pretty good.


    From what I know they are non profit and students don't have to pay much in the way of fees, however seats are limited so they only admit gifted students.

    Many Foreign students from as far as Indonesia study there.



    Government should support the university financially and make it so, that more women can study here both locals and international.

    A place where they can study without having to face unnecessary harassment.


    Go ahead girls, the country is with you.
     
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  3. Tom-tom

    Tom-tom FULL MEMBER

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    Is the university a bd enterprise/ngo like brac? Or is it foreign?
     
  4. DalalErMaNodi

    DalalErMaNodi FULL MEMBER

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    It's an 'International' university in that it is not affiliated to any specific educational system or curriculum.

    It started off as a joint project between World Bank and UN in order promote women's education in South Asia and the Asia Pacific region as a whole.


    In 2004, The Bangladesh government provided them with land and presumably funding as well, they also fast tracked the paperwork that is needed to get the university up and operational.

    In University opened its doors to students in 2006.

    Many international charity organizations and philanthropists are also involved including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.



    In essence, it is a university geared towards woman from all over Asia, hosted in Bangladesh and funded jointly by the GoB and many other international organizations and corporations.

    And as mentioned earlier, students don't have to pay much in the way of fees, as such this university provides the many poor yet gifted women of Bangladesh and beyond with a quality education.
     
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  5. Tom-tom

    Tom-tom FULL MEMBER

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    Do you think brac, is a good organisation to support?
    I support brac, but if I ever upgrade my pay packet I will possibly support it more.
     
  6. DalalErMaNodi

    DalalErMaNodi FULL MEMBER

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    BRAC is singlehandedly doing the heavy lifting when it comes pulling people out of poverty, thankfully the government is well aware of this and they never interfere with BRAC operations.

    BRAC university is already the top university in Bangladesh, barring BUET, they provide many scholarships to gifted students.


    BRAC also has a subsidiary - AARONG, which promotes handicraft and low skill labourers in rural regions. AARONG dairy milk is one of the best packaged fresh milk in Bangladesh and is brought from the farmers at a fair price.

    Through BRAC bank, BRAC also operates bKash, a mobile money transfer service that has made paying government bills easier than ever before and also given birth to many grassroots e-commerce businesses.


    If you were to ask me what is the driving factor behind Bangladesh outpacing it's neighbours in terms of Human development, I would say it's due to the strong NGOs we have in Bangladesh, namely BRAC.


    I could go on to great lengths about BRAC, I have relatives who are involved with BRAC, who personally knew Sir Fazle Abed, they tell me that organisation and man himself, have (had) only one goal and that is to make Bangladesh a more inclusive society for the poor.



    We are now witnessing the rise of another powerful NGO in Bangladesh; Bidyanondo Foundation.


    All in all BRAC, Bidyanondo foundation and to a lesser extent Gonoshashtya kendro, Grameen Bank and government grassroots initiates have all worked together to change rural Bangladesh.


    The difference between the Bangladesh of 1970s to the Bangladesh of today are these NGOs and government initiates, of course barring the growing economy which certainly played a unmistakably important role.


    I have inestimable amounts of respect for these NGOs and the people who work in them, truly they're serving the nation, serving it's poorest ones.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2020
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  7. Tom-tom

    Tom-tom FULL MEMBER

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    Have you heard of jaago foundation and are they any good? Its secondary school organisation that links teacher to various out post across the country via net. The teachers teach them through a projector and there are physical teaching assistants on standby in the class..
     
  8. Bilal9

    Bilal9 ELITE MEMBER

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    Well said - couldn't have said this better myself. :-)