Bangladeshi garment workers and the work of BGMEA

Preyanka Chowdhury, Chittagong Community Manager
Chittagong, 19 September 2016

Functional since 1983, The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) is one of the largest trade associations in the country representing the readymade garment industry. The major focus of BGMEA has been to ensure the promotion and facilitation of the apparel industry through policy advocacy to the government, services to members, ensuring workers’ rights, and social compliance at factories.

Apart from ensuring sustainable growth of the garments industry in Bangladesh through the adoption of various strategic policies, BGMEA emphasizes the legitimate rights and privileges of garment workers. As part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), BGMEA ensures future financial solvency and economic independence of individuals by casting a special focus on insurance schemes for workers and staff in this sector. Additionally, BGMEA ensures greater human capital and empowerment through skill development programs for garment workers through several training centers spread around the country.

Catering to 60,000 garment workers per year, BGMEA runs twelve health centers that provide free healthcare facilities and medicine in Chittagong and Dhaka. Various awareness programs on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, reproductive health and use of contraceptives are also conducted regularly. They also operate a fully-equipped hospital in Chittagong which caters to the workers of BGMEA-member factories.

Along with healthcare facilities, the BGMEA encourages literacy for the children of the garment workers by operating five schools, where free books, stationary, and scholarship facilities for meritorious students are provided. The Association also extends free or affordable housing for the workers of member factories. In collaboration with the Chittagong Development Authority (CDA), the BGMEA have recently constructed a workers dormitory that can accommodate 3000 workers.

The BGMEA’s member-factories are compelled to work towards social development of their employees as part of their commitment to the Association’s principles. The factories operate free in-house medical facilities and equipped day care centers for the children of their workers. Many garment factories stand out by offering services and benefits that enrich the lives of their workers in many ways. These range from providing opportunities for workers with disabilities and ensuring hospitable working conditions, to providing free lunch, transport, and in some places, subsidized retail shops that sell basic necessities to them, making a real difference in their lives.

Photo: Sarah Jane Saltmarsh

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