UN Women Bangladesh in collaboration with Unilever Bangladesh and Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment launched a project on Saturday, 5 September at the capital’s BKTTC conference room, to support women returnee migrants with dignity packages and health-hygiene kits in 10 districts across the country. Aiming to protect returnee women migrant workers from COVID-19 risks and challenges, the project will provide emergency food, personal health and hygiene products and skill development opportunity.
Supported by UN Women, the Government of Japan and Unilever Bangladesh, the project will be implemented by two women rights organisations, Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra (BNSK) and Badabon Sangho, in the locations of Dhaka airport, Dhaka Urban, Manikganj, Keraniganj, Narsingdi, Rajbari, Jessore, Bagerhat, Sylhet, Habiganj, Patuakhali and Jamalpur.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, women migrant workers are facing challenges as they have lost their jobs in the countries of destination. This has put this group of women into greater risks such as lack of food and nutrition, health risks, exposed them to gender-based violence at home and in public as well as social stigma. This project will support these women by providing Cash for Work (CFW) support, creating livelihood options, engaging in community work to disseminate awareness information on COVID-19 prevention.
A total of 400 women returnee migrants in Dhaka, Manikganj and Keraniganj, will receive dignity package which includes 2 masks, a hand-washing bar, detergent powder and basic food items. And 10,000 women migrant workers in 10 districts under 3 divisions will receive health- hygiene products that include 2 masks, hand-washing bar, detergent powder, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. Then 30 returnee women in Manikganj will receive sewing machines (6) and skills training to produce masks for their community as livelihood support. Another 100 returnee women will be engaged with Cash for Work, mobilising vulnerable returnee women, and disseminating awareness messages on COVID-19 prevention in their respective communities. A total of 50,000 people (family members of returnee migrants) will be benefited from the support and services provided under this project.
Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, secretary, expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry, was chief guest on the occasion. Also joining the event as special guests were Md Shamsul Alam, director general, BMET, Dilruba Haider, officer-in-charge, UN Women, Bangladesh, and Rashedul Quayum, secretary and legal director, Unilever Bangladesh.
Tapati Saha from UN Women in her welcome speech said, “Women returnee migrants are facing multiple challenges due to the pandemic situation and this project aims to not only distribute health and hygiene kits to them, but also provide them with some skills development opportunities, cash support, market access and awareness to combat this pandemic. We thank the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, Unilever and our NGO partners BNSK and Badaban Shangha for their support and collaboration.”
Speaking as chief guest at the event, expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment secretary Ahmed Munirus Saleheen said, “We encourage safe, orderly, regular and responsible migration and we expect civil society, NGOs to help us ensuring that. We see a more effective and tangible role of civil society in mainstreaming migration. Bangladesh has made great advancement in women empowerment than many other countries and collaboration with all the sectors can take this forward. It’s a shared responsibility and I thank UN Women, Unilever and our NGOs partners for sharing it with us. ”
Dilruba Haider, UN Women said, “Skill development is a big step of empowerment. We are excited and encouraged to see the kind of support that the GoB is providing not just in this project but to the concept of empowerment. A collaboration of GoB, private sector, UN and NGOs can play a crucial role to empower the returnee women migrants.”
Rashedul Quayum from Unilever Bangladesh said “Unilever Bangladesh has been supporting the nation in its fight against coronavirus through various collaborations and partnerships. We have tried to reach out to as many Bangladeshis as possible through various partnerships and help to protect lives and livelihood in the past four months. Through our collaboration with UN Women as well as Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, we could offer our support to returnee women migrant workers across the country. We hope during this critical time support like food, cash donation and health and hygiene products will help the migrant women workers to meet their basic needs and keep their motivation high to fight the virus as well as build their future. We feel humbled to get associated with this initiative.”
Sumaiya Islam, executive director, BNSK and Lipi Rahman, executive director, Badaban Shangha, presented the overview of the project. The dignity packages were distributed among 125 returnee women migrant workers present at the launch