At least 85 percent of the 4 million garment workers in Bangladesh are women of reproductive age and are in need of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services. They are rural migrants, disadvantaged, ill-educated and they have lack realization for service needs, speakers at a national conference observed on Tuesday.
They said most of these women are trapped between low-income setting and profit driven market dynamics while they are in tug of war between managing their health, wellbeing and productivity to earn their minimum wages. The 2nd National Conference on "Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights among RMG workers in Bangladesh", was held at the Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban, University of Dhaka.
Meher Afroz Chumki, Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs attended the conference as chief guest. Vice Chancellor, University of Dhaka, Prof. Dr. Akhtaruzzaman formally inaugurated the conference while Netherlands Ambassador to Dhaka attended as guest of honour.
Halida Hanum Akhter, Faculty of Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, presented keynote paper on the occasion. In her keynote presentation, she alleged that limited or no access to SRHR/ other health care due to poverty, low wages, accessibility to service facility, long working hours and less time to spare for visit to health care facility, so thus majority go to pharmacies and untrained providers.
The keynote mentioned that the stigma attached to seeking care such as family planning, unwanted pregnancy, menstrual regulation, menstrual hygiene management and sexually transmitted diseases. The conference informed that 49 percent of female RMG workers are bellow 24 years and 79 percent of them are married. 81 percent of female RMG workers do not complete secondary education or less. At least 34 percent working in their current factories for 2 yrs, worked in RMG sector for 5 yrs.
Majority of female workers earned Tk 5001-7000/monthy, use Tk 245 per capita for health only. Of them, 97 percent have access to mobile phone. The study suggest that 38 percent of workers agreed to this statement that they are beaten/slapped if they make mistake at work”; Could not identify acts of physical, mental, sexual harassment/abuse—60% - (40% could identify). 8% harassed ever in her life, 5 percent harassed in last 6 months, 59 percent were victims of roadside harassment and 42 percent sought help/protested for harassment.