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Meet the innovators who are improving gender equality on the factory floor

We are proud to announce the six winners of “STITCH for RMG Global Innovation Challenge”! As automation and digital technology is making its way into the textile industry in Bangladesh, women’s jobs are at risk. Meet the six winners who are working to futureproof the female workforce in Bangladesh.

In a unique partnership, H&M Foundation, BRAC and The Asia Foundation launched the STITCH for RMG Global Innovation Challenge last October – an international competition aiming to empower and equip women employed within the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh.

Automation and digital technology is making its way into the textile industry. This transformation will provide great opportunities, but also risk millions of jobs, especially for women who represent most of the workforce in the RMG industry and who have routinized jobs at high risk of automation. There is an urgent need to create a skilled female workforce to save jobs, create new job opportunities and promote gender equity while increasing factory performance.

USD 30,000 and exclusive partnerships with engaged factories

In addition to a grant of USD 30,000 each, the six teams get unique opportunities to immediately start piloting their innovations in selected partner factories. Six Bangladeshi factories have volunteered to provide time, space, and other resources for the winners to pilot their projects, and each team had the opportunity to find their best match through a unique digital matchmaking process where the innovators and factory owners jointly showed interest in developing business together.

“I think we all have different roles to play, and for H&M Foundation, representing the philanthropic sector, our role is to be able to support early-stage ideas, methods, innovations, and also to be able to take risks that other actors cannot. Together with our partners, we can co-create and validate solutions and invite others to play a part in helping us scale them.”

Diana Amini, Global Manager at H&M Foundation

Meet the six winners

We are proud to announce the six winners of the “STITCH for RMG Global Innovation Challenge” who all have the potential to improve the industry competitiveness and livelihoods of women garment workers.

Agroshift – A demand driven digital grocery platform for garment workers

Agroshift has designed a digital grocery ordering platform where workers place digital orders through a mobile app or physical kiosks within the factory, and the farmer networks of Agroshift then sort, grade, pack and deliver the groceries at the factory by the end of the workday.

The service helps the RMG workers to save time and improves the access to nutritious groceries such as fruits, vegetables, rice, milk and meat at a reduced price. In addition to this, it is also reducing the hassle of dealing with cash, making sure that female workers’ income remains safe from all sorts of cash-related exploitation. The upcoming pilot will be rolled out at the partner factory Echotex Ltd in Bangladesh.

“Unlike how it is perceived elsewhere, we looked at innovation that is not necessarily driven by products, it can be about processes, it can be about simple solutions, and particularly, simplicity is the key toward scaling.”

Asif Saleh, ED, BRAC

i-SMART – An objective skill rating platform for garment workers

i-SMART has created a standardized skill rating matrix, that reduces the risks of bias and exploitation while the skills of garment workers are being measured and evaluated in RMG factories. The platform offers an e-certificate for each worker which makes the process transparent for the workers as well as the management.

This reduces possible discrimination (for example among male supervisors and female garment workers), helps resolve wage related issues, offers a possibility to plan for re-skilling and up-skilling of workers and it can also boost the self-confidence of the workers – making it possible to benchmark their skills towards global standards. The upcoming pilot will be rolled out at the partner factory Aswad Composite Mills Ltd in Bangadesh.

Jyoti – Accessible sanitary pads to improve menstrual hygiene for garment workers

Jyoti installs vending machines for affordable sanitary pads in factories, aiming to improve menstrual hygiene while building awareness and breaking taboos.

Today, 70 percent of the female RMG workers don’t use sanitary pads due to their high cost and stigma – most women still feel shy about buying pads from shops or pharmacies and many also face harassment while doing so. This solution can help build new habits of using menstrual hygiene products among the workers by making them easily accessible, without human interaction and at a lower price. The upcoming pilot will be rolled out at the partner factory Meghna Knit Composite Ltd in Bangadesh.

Quizrr – Leadership training for garment workers to promote female role models

Through a worker-centric platform on tablets and smartphones Quizrr is equipping women in the RMG sector with skills and knowledge on dialogue-based problem solving, equality, leadership, and digital literacy. Relatable films, gamified quizzes and other engaging content in the application is preparing them for new job opportunities in the RMG sector of the future.

In addition to the individual learning process, the solution can help reduce worker turnover and improve worker satisfaction and productivity. It can also help set the tone for a productive workplace dialogue, and help female workers express their interest in becoming leaders, line managers and worker representatives. By promoting strong role models, more females will also get empowered to up-skill themselves and build their careers. The upcoming pilot will be rolled out at the partner factory Alliance Stitches Limited in Bangladesh.

“We are looking forward to new collaborations through this network. We want to learn from each other, so we can further accelerate our solutions and provide better innovations to this industry and its workforce.”

Sofie Nordström, founder of Quizrr

Sustify – Gamified microlearning for female garment workers

Sustify is an interactive e-learning platform for tablets, that gamifies learning and increases knowledge on work-related topics while improving digital skills. The individual training aims to make women workers more aware of topics like workers’ rights, safety and health and their role in taking actions to solve problems.

In addition to the increased individual knowledge, boosted confidence and digital literacy, this will also increase productivity and help the industry to become more profitable, but the insights will also be transferred into the private life of each garment worker (for example learnings regarding fire safety). Sustify will roll out the upcoming pilot at the partner factory Tarasima Apparels Ltd in Bangladesh.

ToguMogu –   A platform supporting the wellbeing and parenthood of female garment workers

ToguMogu is a parenting platform that will enable female garment workers to manage their pregnancy and post-pregnancy health and ensure proper childcare as well as the wellbeing of their families. This will improve the work-life balance and ensure job retention and financial stability for the RMG workers, also increasing the productivity and wellbeing at the factories.

The platform provides healthcare support through a low-tech version of the platform, providing content designed to target female RMG workers. To onboard the workers to the platform, workshops will also be arranged on physical health during pregnancy and child development. The upcoming pilot will be rolled out at the partner factory Pioneer Knitwears (BD) Ltd in Bangladesh.

About BRAC
BRAC, the largest NGO in the world, is a global leader in developing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based programs to assist the most marginalized people in extremely poor, conflict-prone, and post-disaster settings. BRAC employs nearly 100,000 people in 11 countries, with a total global expenditure of more than $1 billion. Over 75 percent of its budget in Bangladesh is self-financed through its social enterprises. BRAC Social Innovation Lab (SIL) is a knowledge and experimentation hub, and has been continuously supporting BRAC for tomorrow’s challenges by capitalizing on emerging opportunities and catalyzing innovation throughout the organization.
About The Asia Foundation
The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Working through our offices in 18 countries and informed by deep local expertise and six decades of experience, we address the critical issues affecting Asia by strengthening governance, expanding economic opportunity, increasing environmental resilience, empowering women, and promoting international cooperation.