The plight of the garment workers of Bangladesh as highlighted in some of the western media moved Cally so much that he decided to make available apparels that were part of the cancelled orders in £35 box of clothes carrying apparel items worth £70 to end customers, the earnings from which will be routed back to Bangladesh to help the garment workers.
The Lost Stock initiative already aims to help around 100,000 workers by the end of the year through this initiative, and it already has Bangladesh-based non-governmental organisation SAJIDA Foundation to help it in this noble cause.
“SAJIDA Foundation has been one of the first responders to COVID-19 crisis in Bangladesh. Our activities cover frontline healthcare services to general and COVID-19 patients, remote healthcare consultation, agriculture value chain support, setting up of portable handwashing stations in vulnerable communities and food and hygiene package distributions. During the crisis, numerous private sector companies, foundations and individuals have come forward to support SAJIDA to address the crisis. One of those is ‘The Very Group’, for food and hygiene package distribution amongst garmentworkers. The Very Group referred us to Mallzee, who conceptualised the ‘Lost Stock’ initiative,” Muhymin Chowdhury, SAJIDA Foundation’s Head of Challenge Fund and Fundraising, tells Apparel Resources.
As per Muhymin, as part of this initiative, Mallzee will donate a portion of its sales proceeds to SAJIDA Foundation, which in turn will use this fund to provide immediate relief to garment workers in the form of food and hygiene packages.
“Over time, other activities targeting garment workers will also be launched,” confirms Muhymin, adding the response to this initiative has been encouraging and over 25,000 boxes have been sold so far.
Considering that the repercussions of the coronavirus fallout would be long-standing and far-fetched that would impact many aspects of garment workers’ lives, SAJIDA Foundation has drawn up a future plan of action to stand by and help the garment workers in the coming days.
“The needs of these garment workers are twofold. One is getting access to essentials to survive in the short term (Bangladesh’s safety net programmes are not strong enough), and the other is to regain access to a steady income through new jobs/starting small businesses. One of the things which SAJIDA will look at is to introduce a bundled product (combination of free business management training, grant and loans). This will be offered to unemployed garment workers to help them start home/community-based businesses (like tailoring, small retail stores, trading, agriculture). Given the state of the garments sector, it is unlikely that the unemployed workers will find jobs at other garment factories anytime soon. SAJIDA will look to provide workers training on other technical trades and facilitate placement opportunities,” Muhymin explains their future course of action.
SAJIDA Foundation’s planned initiatives carry even more significance if seen from the perspective of the recent report by the Centre for Global Workers’ Rights, which found that a staggering 58 per cent of factories surveyed reported having to shut down most or all of their operations due to order cancellations by buyers, which combined with the other challenges faced by the factories could now render thousands of workers jobless, if not millions.
It may be mentioned here that SAJIDA Foundation is a value-driven non-government organisation established in 1993 by Syed Humayun Kabir with the aim to ensure health, happiness and dignity for all. SAJIDA embodies the principle of corporate philanthropy with 51 per cent shareholding at Renata Limited, a leading pharmaceutical company. It operates in 26 districts and serves 6 million clients through a diverse portfolio of financial products and services, multi-sectoral development programmes including agriculture and strategically positioned social enterprises.
SAJIDA Foundation also co-finances green technology such as rain water harvesting devices at the factory level. Additionally, SAJIDA’s programmes at the factories focus on creating awareness on food and menstrual hygiene amongst workers. It has also established specialised social businesses which cater to children with special needs, elderly care and mental wellness. These social enterprises provide training to welfare officers employed by the garment factories, so that they can provide basic mental health counselling and safeguarding.