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  HOME PAGE 09/08/2022 20:48 
05.08.2022 10:27 News >> Bangladesh's Garment Industry Not Conducive For Breastfeeding Women Workers

Bangladesh's Garment Industry Not Conducive For Breastfeeding Women Workers

In case of violation of such basic rights, legal actions will be taken, says official.

Despite significant advances in Bangladesh's readymade garment (RMG) industry in terms of labor rights, safety, and a congenial workplace environment, many women workers are unable to breastfeed their babies, according to multiple sources.
"I had to leave my job almost three months before the birth of my first child, surrendering my monthly wage. Later, I contacted the management when my baby was only two months old. But there were no vacancies and I had to find a job at another factory," Fatema Begum, 27, a garment worker in the Ashulia area of the capital Dhaka, told Anadolu Agency.
Begum narrated her predicament as World Breastfeeding Week is being observed with the theme "Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet." It is marked every year in the first week of August.
Like Begum, thousands of women RMG workers in Bangladesh are still deprived of maternity leave and breastfeeding facilities at their workplaces.
Recounting a similar story, Taslima Akhter, 30, a worker in Bangladesh's port city of Chattogram, said she did not dare to demand a salary during her maternity leave.
"I worked at a small factory, and they even did not pay regularly for overtime duties," Akhter said, adding that many others are also deprived like her.
Following the tragic collapse of a garment factory building in Dhaka's Savar subdistrict in April 2013 that killed over 1,100 and injured hundreds of others, the world raised concerns over the safety and rights of garment workers in Bangladesh.
The incident was a turning point for the country's RMG industry. Factory owners were forced to address the issue, while a sense of awareness was also raised among the workers.
No scope of breastfeeding
According to workers and authorities, after the 2013 tragedy international buyers put pressure on factory owners and the government to maintain worker safety at workplaces. Aside from ensuring their basic rights, such as pay increases and the development of labor unions. Since then, the safety and other benefits of women workers in the RMG industry have greatly improved.
More than 80% of the over 4.1 million workers in the sector are women, mostly from needy families in the country's remote areas.
"I work at a factory in Chattogram's export processing zone, and women get paid maternity leave. But, afterwards, they must work long hours, and there is no baby care facility in my factory. So, women have little opportunities to feed their newborns," Popy Akter told Anadolu Agency.
Many other workers noted that they enjoy 16 weeks of maternity leave with full wages, but there are no baby care rooms in their factories.
Due to poverty, a large number of women garment workers leave their babies at home or with family members to work. While, some of them send newborns to their rural homes far away from their town workplaces, who are completely reliant on powdered or formula milk accessible in the market.
"Some factories are properly maintaining all basic rules and labor rights. But many are still failing to do that," said Nazrul Islam Shahid, quality manager at a big RMG factory in the southeastern border district of Comilla.
"If there are still garment factory owners who ignore these basic rights, including a mother's right to breastfeed, then they should be declared noncompliant," he added.
Breastfeeding for encouragement
Rubana Huq, former president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told Anadolu Agency that maternity leave is one of the most basic rights of a worker.
"Amid the global waves of feminism and inclusion, let the women garment workers not be ignored," said Huq, also the only woman president in the history of the country's leading trade body.
She said 65% of the sector's 4.1 million workers require a secure environment at their workplaces because they sometimes work until late at night. Once a safe environment is provided, these women employees may more effectively serve their companies.
Huq added that under the law, women RMG workers should be entitled to at least 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, as well as baby care rooms in all factories where they can feed their babies and care for them during lunch or tea breaks. Moreover, basic salary and other benefits, such as payment for overtime and festival bonuses, should be paid on time in accordance with the government's wage rates.
Action in violation of rights
The government's related department, however, says they regularly monitor the issue.
"According to our country's law, every garment factory must have a child room or a child corner. We have already ensured it in most of the factories," Md. Matiur Rahman, joint inspector general at the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments under the Ministry of Labor and Employment, told Anadolu Agency.
Rahman said they regularly file reports to the higher authorities of the government regarding the issue.
He said the RMG sector is a stable exporting sector with a standard working environment in terms of salaries, safety, and dignity. Both owners and employees are now aware of their responsibilities and rights.
"In case of any exceptional incident, we must take care of that. We even file cases against the responsible authorities," Rahman said.
Workers in the garment sector are now more skilled and capable of working comfortably with cutting-edge technologies. Local governments audit RMG plants on a regular basis to ensure that they are in good operating order, and overseas customers do the same before placing orders. -



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