The readymade garment (RMG) industry, the mainstay of the Bangladesh economy, bags 81 per cent of the country’s total export and is the world’s third largest garment producer with more than 4,000 factories, employing around four million workers, of which 85 per cent are women. Most RMG workers are migrants from rural areas, who face multiple barriers to receiving adequate healthcare, and services related to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). SNV Netherlands Development Organization is implementing three projects in the garment industry all working towards the improved health and well-being of garment workers through the provision of universal access to health and sexual and reproductive health care services (Targets 3.8 and 3.7). SNV recognise that realizing SDG 3 in Bangladesh’s fashion industry requires a systematic approach.
It makes factory management understand that investing in a workers’ health is not just a social responsibility, but that there are compelling business results that arise from such investment. Having identified the cornerstones to challenges faced by garment workers in accessing healthcare, over the past four years, SNV has been working to develop different inclusive business models to make healthcare affordable and available in garment communities and build the capacity of local organisations, NGOs and private sector, and establish linkages in reaching the untapped market segments in healthcare. SNV’s approach shifts away from traditional awareness and capacity building programmes, and focuses only on the workers within the garment businesses, so that they can realise the returns of addressing SRHR issues in their factories.