Returnee women migrant workers are producing masks and running a women’s café as alternative livelihood. These are the women who were forced to come back to Bangladesh when the pandemic broke out last year, without any assurance of having an income source. UN Women launched a project “Women and Girls at the Center of COVID-19 Prevention” last year supported by the government of Japan, to support these returnee migrant workers. With implementing partner Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra (BNSK), these women were given training and necessary equipment to create alternative income generating opportunities.

When last year the Covid pandemic broke out, it not only affected the people living in the country but also our overseas workers, particularly women. Those in Gulf Cooperation Councils (GCC) countries, were made redundant due to the global economic shutdown. Between April-December 2020, a total of 408,408 migrants’ workers returned to Bangladesh. Out of them 12% were women. The premature return due to COVID-19 has been particularly challenging for women migrant workers. Many have psychological trauma from the abusive employment conditions, and upon return they have been further stigmatised and harassed as potential carriers of the disease, especially if returning from highly impacted countries.


Under this initiative, today Naoki Ito, ambassador of Japan, inaugurated the “Training on Women’s Economic Leadership” course for the returnee women workers at Bangladesh-Korea Technical Training Centre (BKTTC). “What impressed me the most is the level of coordination and cooperation between UN Women, BNSK, GoB and the Japan government. Japan came out with the concept of ‘Human Security’ that focused on empowerment and protection. This initiative is a good example of this concept where we are working to give them protection through creating income sources and empowering them through building their capacities,” he said in his speech.

He visited the visited “Women Café” in BKTTC and interacted with women migrant workers to understand their current condition. Later the ambassador and guests visited the mask production activity by the women migrant workers at BNSK office premises.

Present at the event, Shoko Ishikawa, country representative, UN Women Bangladesh said, “We want to ensure that the women who returned because of COVID-19 are able to continue with some income generating activities so they can sustain themselves. We would also ask BMET to continue to train these women so they can continue working and have a stable livelihood.”

Nafriza Shayma, additional director general, Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment (MOEW&OE) was also present at the event.

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