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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;
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.
Carola Tembe, Program Manager, H&M Foundation
Our previous projects in Bangladesh
Save the Children