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News  |  9 July 2020

Backing women garment workers in Bangladesh

The H&M Foundation is initiating a long-term project to support women garment workers in Bangladesh, affected by the global pandemic as well as the increased automation of the textile industry. Lives as well as millions of jobs are at risk, and there is an urgent need to minimize the negative impacts of COVID-19 on female textile workers as well as creating a skilled female workforce for the future.
Photo: CARE

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Bangladesh has been identified by WHO as one of the 25 most vulnerable countries to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with a high population density, poor infrastructure, weak health systems and low awareness of basic preventive measures. As the coronavirus is rapidly spreading within the country some high-risk areas are currently in lockdown to maintain social distancing and flatten the curve.

The textile sector is one of the largest contributors to the country’s GDP and the local and global effects of the pandemic has a great impact on textile workers within the garment industry. At the same time, the use of automation and digital technology is making its way into the textile industry, also creating a great risk of unemployment for millions of Bangladeshis.

Women are particularly at risk, as they represent the majority of the total workforce within the garment industry and are often employed to execute the tasks which are highly susceptible to automation. There is an urgent need to create a skilled female workforce to save jobs and create new job opportunities.


From urgent needs to long-term support

H&M Foundation is initiating a long-term project, running over several years, to support female garment workers in these excessive transitions, starting with their urgent needs connected to Covid-19. As a first step, we are donating 12 million SEK (1.3 million USD) to WaterAid, CARE and Save the Children to provide around 76,000 young women, their families and community members in and around Dhaka with emergency relief, also reaching 1 million people with messages on Covid-19 and hygiene practices.

The initial support will for example include;

  • cash assistance for food, medication and other necessities
  • health care and covid-19 testing
  • hygiene materials and handwashing facilities
  • work on awareness raising
  • support to families where gender based violence increases as an effect of the crisis
  • child protection and child education focusing on disadvantaged children.

To follow up, we aim to take on a holistic approach involving important players from different sectors to achieve systemic long-lasting change, equipping female textile workers in Bangladesh for a future where work is defined by automation and digitalization. We will for example be looking at upskilling, re-skilling, digital literacy efforts and entrepreneurship. We will also be launching community programs and utilizing social innovation to solve challenges or spark new ideas relevant to female textile workers employability.

“We will directly support women and their families with for example cash assistance for food, medication and other necessities, provide COVID-19 testing, hygiene materials and handwashing facilities and awareness raising. We hope to see more donors show their support in different ways."

Carola Tembe, Program Manager, H&M Foundation

Our previous projects in Bangladesh

Short facts

  • Since 2013, 7.7 million people around the world have been directly reached through the non-profit H&M Foundation’s initiatives within Education, Water, Equality, Planet as well as emergency relief, and 98 million USD has been granted in total.
  • The total donation to emergency relief is 3.8 million USD, contributing to our partners’ total aid for hundreds of thousands of people.
  • Learn about concrete examples of how existing projects have been adapted to respond to the pandemic.
  • Earlier this year, to specifically support the work to prevent, detect and respond to the pandemic, H&M Foundation made a donation of 500,000 USD to WHO through the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
  • H&M Foundation also has an ongoing partnership with UN Foundation focusing on advancing the progress of the UN Sustainable Development Goals through women’s empowerment advocacy and supporting social entrepreneurship.

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Project specifics


WaterAid

  • Project focus: Improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene services and awareness raising.
  • Areas in Dhaka: Savar, Ashulia, Gazipur and Narayanganj.
  • People directly reached: 19,500 women garment workers, including their household members.
  • H&M Foundation donation: 2.9 million SEK.

CARE

  • Project focus: Gender-based violence support and services, health services and supporting women and their families economically.
  • Areas in Dhaka: Gazipur City Corporation, Gazipur Sadar, Savar, Ashulia and Mymensingh.
  • People directly reached: 7,200 women garment workers and 30,000 community members.
  • H&M Foundation donation: 6 million SEK.

Save the Children

  • Project focus: Supporting disadvantaged children with focus on child protection and child education. Parents, teachers, education authorities and government also included in the project.
  • Areas in Dhaka: Selected areas of Gazipur, Savar and Narayngonj
  • People directly reached: 19,000
  • H&M Foundation donation: 3.1 million SEK.
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