The Asia Foundation and H&M Foundation Support Women Garment Workers in Bangladesh
September 1, 2020 — The Asia Foundation has joined the H&M Foundation in a new partnership to coordinate immediate disaster relief for female garment workers in Bangladesh who have been impacted by Covid-19. In addition, through this partnership The Asia Foundation and the H&M Foundation are working to address the longer-term needs, welfare, and livelihoods of Bangladesh’s female garment workers by supporting their successful adaptation to an automated and digitized “future of work.”
The Covid-19 pandemic and the associated slow-down in global economic activity have had a huge impact on Bangladesh’s garment workers. Bangladesh’s economy is heavily dependent on the garment industry, which employs 3.6 million workers, the majority of whom are women. Among the communities of garment workers, Covid-19’s health risks are exacerbated by crowded living environments and limited access to medical services. In addition, the drop in global demand for textiles has left Bangladesh’s garment workers particularly vulnerable to unemployment and increased poverty.
Building on decades of experience working to support women’s economic advancement and improved livelihoods for Bangladesh’s workers, the Foundation is serving as a Project Coordinating Organization for the H&M Foundation partnership, helping to facilitate the project activities of three collaborating organizations: CARE, WaterAid, and Save the Children. With these partners, the H&M Foundation-funded initiative is working to improve access to basic healthcare and Covid-19 treatment, support better sanitation and hygiene in worker communities, and ensure that children and families are protected from violence, neglect, and exploitation.
In addition to the immediate needs brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, Bangladesh’s female garment workers face longer-term vulnerabilities resulting from imminent, technology-led changes to the labor landscape. As factories become increasingly automated over the next decade, many traditional low-skilled employment opportunities will disappear. The Asia Foundation and the H&M Foundation are committed to helping Bangladesh’s garment workers adapt to these changes by providing them with the skills and resources they will need to transition to new forms of work and ensuring that the garment industry continues to support the livelihoods of women workers.
The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote international cooperation.
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