In collaboration with the Swiss embassy in Dhaka, Ashshash, a project of multinational development organisation Winrock International, organised the roundtable, “Engaging private sector for the economic development of the vulnerable population”, at a hotel in Chattogram on Sunday. Prothom Alo was the media partner of the event.

Private sector entrepreneurs, business leaders, and government as well as private officials working on human trafficking attended the event moderated by Prothom Alo joint editor Bishwajit Chowdhury.

Addressing as the chief guest, Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Mahbubul Alam laid emphasis on skill development of migrant workers. He said most of the people who go abroad in search of fortune are not well-trained or skilled as the foreigners complain frequently.

People sell their assets and go abroad overcoming numerous hazards. Even after reaching their destination, they lead inhumane lives there to earn money. So it is crucial to be skilled, they said.

Md Almas Shimul, additional managing director of GPH Ispat Limited, said two sections of people are going abroad. One of the groups consists of highly meritorious people while the other group is of less meritorious individuals. The highly meritorious group thinks that there is no working or research environment in the country as per their qualifications.

Noting that GPH Ispat employs around 50 unskilled workers every year, Almas Shimul said these workers become skilled through practical training. Many of them still work for GPH while some of them went abroad with good jobs.

Any initiative jointly taken by the private entrepreneurs to create skilled workers would bear fruits, he added.

A report compiled by the Ashshash project revealed that more than one million women and children have been trafficked out of the country in the last 30 years. Around 400 women and children fall prey to human trafficking rings each month.

According to a survey, around 300,000 Bangladeshi children and women aged between 12 and 30 were trafficked to a neighbouring country in the last 10 years. Winrock International, with its Ashshash project, has been working on around 4,500 trafficking victims in Chattogram, Cox’s Bazar, Khulna, Jashore and Satkhira districts. Around 70 per cent of the victims are women.

Expressing concern over human trafficking, Jesmin Sultana, the chief executive of non-government development organization ELMA, said mainly the youth emigrate to other countries after being frustrated here in different ways. But many of them are being deceived. The men somehow manage to survive in the society, but the women face immense sufferings here. They and their families are subjected to different sorts of harassment.

Such women should be trained and developed in a way that they can work here without any hassle, he said, adding the private sector also has a part to do in this regard.

Citing the crisis of skilled workers, Bangladesh garment manufacturers and exporters association (BGMEA) vice-president Syed Nazrul Islam underscored the need to equip the workers with proper skill and training.

Sending workers abroad cannot be stopped. So the focus should be put on making them technically skilled before departing. It would ensure good jobs for them abroad and help them send good remittance back to the country.

Besides, those who have been deceived and returned home should be offered employment facilities, he added.

Zahir Uddin Ahmed, managing director of Confidence Cement Limited, said human trafficking is a huge problem which cannot be solved through a lone project or institution. It requires extensive awareness campaigns.

Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) director Munal Mahbub laid emphasis on engaging the ill-fated returnees in different industries, including the readymade garments. He said the victims even endure mental torture after returning home and this must be prevented.

In her welcome speech, Dipta Rakshit, team leader of Ashshash project, said Winrock International has been working in Bangladesh for four decades for the development of economy and livelihood. Disadvantaged people are the big beneficiaries of it.

The morale of human trafficking victims get damaged and Winrock International is providing counseling services to them through the Ashshash project. They are also developed as skilled manpower through proper training, she said.

Chattogram economic zone director Md Nadimul Haque, Pacific Jeans Managing Director Major (retd) Sadin Tyeb, among others spoke on the occasion.