The voice of Women Group

Proyash formed 32 such groups organising 762 women in Savar-Narayanganj-Mirpur, raised voice to solve problems like waterlogging

Sultana Yeasmin Mili, a resident of Savar municipality in Dhaka district, could not even imagine that she will be a focal person in her community a year ago.
The 40-year-old housewife likes to help people and think about solutions for the problems that she and her neighbours face. But she did not have any platform to raise her voice.

Proyash — an urban risk reduction project of Save the Children — gave Mili the opportunity through formation of Women Group, a platform of unprivileged women in the area, which she had been expecting for a long time.

The project, implemented by Social and Economic Enhancement Program (SEEP) and funded by C&A Foundation, formed 10 such groups, consist of 25 members each, in ward-6 of the municipality. And, Mili was selected the leader of a group.

Besides, Proyash formed 10 groups in Mirpur and 12 in Narayanganj.

The ward was one of the most important areas in the town and several thousands of people, mostly the garment workers, live there. At the same time, the ward was one of the most polluted and waterlogging prone areas.

If you visit the ward’s Karnapara area where Mili lives, you will have to keep your nose closed while walking on the streets due to bad smell of garbage, scattered here and there.

Instated of walking, you may sink into the water of drain or cannel nearby during the rainy season. Because, most of the drains in the area were uncovered and the banks of the channels were too low that can easily submerge the roads after a moderate rain.

Such situation has been continuing over the years, and a number of children in the area have already been drowned in the last few years.

Mili and her group members pointed out the problems and formed an action plan containing several maps and graphs in July 2016 with support of Proyash. They submitted the plan to the municipality mayor, and he assured to solve the problems.

“People in our area have to suffer a lot due to the waterlogging problem. Our kids cannot go to school regularly during the rainy season, and we cannot do our daily activities properly then,” said Mili.

“We also suffer from different type waterborne and mosquito transmitted disease for it,” she added.

“Proyash organised a total of 25 women in our area to form the group in January 2016. Then, the group members worked together to identify the problems,” said Mili, the leader of the group titled Shapla.

“We formed an action plan with support of the project authorities in order to find some solutions, and then we submitted it to the mayor of the municipality,” she said.
“All of us became very glad that the mayor accepted our plan and assured to solve the problems. Although the solutions have not been brought yet, we did not give up hope,” Mili added.

Beyond the solution, Mili and her group members as well as the other 225 women of Proyash Women Group did a remarkable job through raising their voice to solve the problems.

The initiative of the project also enhanced women empowerment in the area and ensured their participation in the mechanism of disaster risk reduction.
“Proyash made us wake and grew leadership among us,” said Mili. “Why should women depend on men for everything? If we [women] come forward, we will be able to solve our own problems,” she said.

“I would like to thank the Proyash authority a lot as the project made a significant change in our society,” she added.

Launched in September 2015, Proyash also disseminated knowledge for preparedness of different disasters, like fire and earthquake, among the women by organising several meetings, said Obidul Islam, an officer (urban risk reduction) of Save the Children in Bangladesh.

After the activities of the Women Group, the authorities concerned, including the municipality mayor, showed eagerness to solve the waterlogging problem, he said.

A safeguard for children

Proyash day care centre initiative ensured safety for garment workers’ children and increased productivity

Rina Akter was over the moon when she became mother for the first time.

After watching the face of her baby girl, all the sadness of Rina, a garment worker in Dhaka’s Mirpur area, had disappeared.

She used to spend all her days talking, singing and playing with the baby girl until returning to work after a six-month maternity leave.

In the beginning of the return, Rina used to be late to join in work and could not concentrate on her duty thinking of her daughter Nuha.

Even few months later, the 21-year-old woman decided to resign after some consecutive absences in work, because she did not have any option to keep the baby in a safe place during work hours. Besides, there was no day care centre at her workplace.

But Rina did not have to resign as a day care centre was launched at her factory, few weeks after she had been facing the difficulties.

The day care centre, introduced by Save the Children through its project titled Proyash, gave her daughter a safe environment, which was free of cost. At the same time, it helped Rina to be tension-free and increased her productivity.

Along with Proyash — an urban risk reduction project implemented by Social and Economic Enhancement Program (SEEP) and funded by C&A Foundation — a non-government organisation named Phulki also supported to set up the day care centre.

“I brought my mom in Dhaka after the birth of Nuha to take care of my baby girl, but she left few months later. The situation was like — Nuha would have to stay at home alone if I don’t be absent,” said Rina.

“Then, I fall into a big trouble and became very worried thinking that where will I keep my daughter during work hours as Nuha’s father do a job and stay out of home mostly,” she said, a sewing machine operator of Evince Garments Limited in Mirpur.

“But all my worries came to an end when I got the day care centre facility. Now I can keep my daughter there without having any tension,” she said. “I can work more comfortably which I couldn’t before,” she added.

“Even, I can come to see her during my breaks as the day care centre is situated at the downstairs of my office. I feel like that I am working all the day keeping my daughter with me. Everything became possible for Proyash,” said Rina.

Like her, many working mothers of Evince and other two garment factories in Savar — Quazi Abedin Tex Limited and JK Group — felt relieve after getting the day care facilities.

In 2016, Proyash introduced a mechanism of day care centre at the garment factories, and then provided support to the authorities of the factories to run the centres, said Yeakub Hossain, coordinator of the project.

“The aim of the initiative was to support the mothers among the garment workers so that they can ensure safety for their kids and increase their productivity,” he said.
In the day care centres, the babies get very good care and lesson from the caregivers through games and different cultural and educational activities.

Mariam Begum Momtaz, supervisor of the day care centre at Evince Garments Limited, said the kids would lead a monotonous life and their mental development would not be appropriate, if they were kept at home alone or under care of maidservants.

“The kids can spend a very good time staying in a homelike environment at our centre. They can also learn many things as we provide them pre-school education here,” she said.

“We keep the kids until their mothers’ works were finished. And at least two caregivers regularly take care of them by turn, roughly from 8:00am to 9:00pm,” she added.

Syed Shahidujjaman, manager (compliance) of Evince Garments Limited, said both the parties — the factory authorities (including the owner), and the workers — became benefitted thorough the day care initiative that kept the babies well and safe.

“The Proyash authority gave us a lot of logistic supports to set up the day care centre. I congratulate them for such remarkable contribution,” he said adding that they will continue the centre thinking of betterment of the kids and the workers.

UCVs strengthened firefighters’ capacity

Proyash, urban risk reduction project, created 266 urban community volunteers (UCVs) in Mirpur-Savar-Narayanganj-Mohammadpur

Bangladesh has around 9,000 fire fighters for the total 163 million people, according to Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence (BFSCD).
Although most of them work in urban areas, the number is not sufficient for about 350 cities across the country.

BFSCD is the only authorised government organisation, under which the fire fighters work as the first responder of various kinds disasters at around 310 stations different parts of the county.

The shortage of manpower and capacity put a pressure on the organisation to do its activities fluently, thereby the fire fighters sometimes cannot respond to the disasters timely and reduce the damages properly.

To overcome the situation and increase the capacity of the fire fighter, BFSCD in 2010 decided to prepare a sufficient number of Urban Community Volunteers (UCVs), who will work as a supporting force of the organisation in urban areas.

The BFSCD has set a goal to prepare about 62,000 such volunteers within 2020 by providing them basic training of fire fighters, but only around 33,000 UCVs have been trained so far.

In order to accelerate the BFSCD’s initiative, Proyash — an urban risk reduction project of Save the Children — decided to create the volunteers as much as it can.
The project, implemented by Social and Economic Enhancement Program (SEEP) and funded by C&A Foundation, has successfully created around 266 UCVs so far with the support of the fire service department.

Of them, about 106 volunteers are from Mirpur, 90 from Nrayanganj, and 70 from Savar.
The UCVs have made a significant contribution to increase the capacity of BFSCD by accelerating the fire fighters’ activities.
The volunteers also played an important role in terms of reducing damages and risks of the disasters instantly, as they have turned into the first responders of the calamities in their areas after the Proyash initiative.

Quote from a fire service official: Necessity of UCVs. How they helped BFSCD?
“……Evaluate the Proyash activities……,” he said.

Md Wahid, a volunteer in Dhaka’s Mirpur area, said he has been working as a UCV from 2016 and took part in control of different fire incidents in his area.
“I had a dream to be a volunteer when I was a kid, and Proyash made my dream come true,” said the 20-year-old youth.

“I have worked on controlling around seven fire incidents in Mirpur along the fire fighters so far,” he added.

“The fire fighters can control fire and rescue people and their goods quickly, when we the volunteers work with them,” said Wahid, a university student.
“Even, we can take action against the fire incidents and other disasters before the fire fighters could manage to come. It helps a lot to reduce damage of lives and assets,” he added.

Sabana Begum, another volunteer of Jimkhana area in Narayanganj district, said a number of fire incidents had taken near her residence in the last few months.
“The fire would burn the entire area into the ground if we did not receive the training to control it, she said.

“I usually gather all the volunteers, both male and female, when any fire incident takes place. We work together to protect ourselves,” said Sabana, a leader of a UCV team in the district.

She also said women must come forward to engage them to such activities, as they become the worst sufferers during the disaster.
Syed Matiul Ahsan, deputy director (disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation) of Save the Children in Bangladesh, said the volunteers are the helping hand of the fire fighters.

The UCV initiative will be more effective and the volunteers will work more actively if the authority concerned institutionalises them through formation of some guidelines for the UCVs, he said.

Little training, but large impact

Over 2,000 garment workers-officials received fire safety and earthquake preparedness training from Proyash, increased workplace safety

After two consecutive catastrophes in garments sector of Bangladesh — fire at Tazreen Fashions in 2012 and Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 — experts observed that the causalities could be reduced if the workers and the factory authorities were aware enough.

The disasters have awakened the authorities concerned to think about safety of workers and workplaces. Fire safety, earthquake preparedness, risk reduction and workplace safety became major concern afterwards.

Thinking of the concern, Save the Children took an exceptional initiative of creating awareness, by which the garment workers and officials will gain knowledge. At the same time, they will also be trained to take immediate actions if any disaster takes place.

In doing so, the international non-governmental organization so far provided fire safety and earthquake preparedness training among more than 2,000 workers and officials of eight garments factories in Mirpur, Savar and Narayanganj.

Save the Children arranged the two-day long training through its project titled Proyash in association with Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence (BFSCD).

Proyash, an urban risk reduction project, was implemented by Social and Economic Enhancement Program (SEEP) and funded by C&A Foundation. The 27-month project started from September 2015.

The training helped the garment workers to be confident in taking instant actions, and to know about their responsibilities during and after the disasters and the necessity of cooperation and knowledge sharing.

It also helped them to be aware of their safety rights and to raise voice against the safety lacks of the factories they work, said the workers.

“I didn’t know how to extinguish fire and what fire extinguisher is? But, I came to know lots of things after the training,” said Salma Begum, a sewing machine operator of Evince Garments Limited in Dhaka’s Mirpur area.

“The training helped us to be enough confident to face and extinguish small fire incidents, and also made us aware of taking necessary steps for bigger ones,” said Salma, who took the two-day long training along with her colleagues.

“From now on, we will be able to protect ourselves and our other colleagues from disaster by following pre-preparedness measures that we have learned,” she said. “Even, now we can freely talk to our factory authorities about the safety glitches,” she added.

The training initiative helped both the workers and the factory authorities as it played an important rote to enhanced safety of the factories. Besides, it helped the authorities to take safety measures and learn many basics of disaster.

SM Khalid Mahmud, a partner of Knit Bangla Garments in Narayanganj, said the workers and the officials of his factory, including him, gathered many basic knowledge of fire and its control that they did not know before.

“We were aware of safety issues, but we won’t be able to understand the necessity of taking appropriate measures if Proyash would not come to us,” said Khalid, also the managing director of the garments.

“The training ensued personal safety of the workers. At the same time, it also ensured safety of the factory,” he added.
About the training, the safety official of Evince Garments Limited Syed Haider Zaman said about 40 workers and officials of the factory received the training at a time.

It taught them the causes of fire and its prevention and control, emergency evacuation, and first aid, he said.
“The training was hands-on as the BFSCD officials directly conducted it. That is why, the training helped them to learn well,” said Haider, also an administrative officer of the factory.

“I congratulate the Proyash authority for taking such effective initiative that helped many garment factories like us,” he said.
Syed Matiul Ahsan, deputy director (disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation) of Save the Children in Bangladesh, said the initiative was taken to ensure workplace safety of the garment workers as many factories do not follow proper safety measures.

Proyash made a start to brighten the image of Bangladesh to the world, now the authorities of the garment factories have to continue the safety initiative, he said.