Under the UNICEF-led Mothers@Work initiative, UNICEF and the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) will support factories to provide breastfeeding spaces and breaks, childcare facilities, paid maternity leave, cash benefits, health care, employment protection and a safe work environment for working mothers and pregnant women.
Evidence shows that paid time off, support for breastfeeding and antenatal services contribute to healthier children and happier families as well as gender equality, workforce productivity, and sustainable economic growth.
Bangladesh’s garment industry is the second largest clothing exporter in the world, contributing about 11% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Over half of the nearly 4 million people working in garment factories are women of reproductive age. However, a 2018 UNICEF survey revealed gaps in the provision of breaks and private spaces for breastfeeding, which is critical to children’s health and development.
“Providing targeted support for women in the workforce and ensuring women can earn a living, while also having the needed support to care for their children, is critical for women and their children and is an investment that benefits all,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh.
Building on lessons learned from a UNICEF pilot project, this partnership will improve working conditions for 130,000 women and provide better nutrition services, and day-care facilities for 8,000 children. Starting in 80 factories, the initiative will gradually increase aiming to ultimately reach over 4,000 factories in Bangladesh.
“It is imperative to keep the workplace safe and welcoming for mothers and pregnant women working in garment factories to protect their well-being and ensure that their children receive key nutrients necessary to support a baby’s healthy development,” said Faruque Hassan, President of BGMEA.
“We commit to building a conducive work environment for mothers in our knitwear sector, for the benefit of our workers, and their children who are the future of our nation, and for our businesses,” said Salim Osman, President of BKMEA.
UNICEF is also engaging with the Government as a way to sustain and scale up Mothers@Work programme.