The British Asian Trust, in partnership with Primark and Sajida Foundation, launched a new project for providing mental health training and support to workers in the ready-made-garments industry in Bangladesh.
Under the international public private partnership (PPP) project, key workers in factories and mills will be trained as lay counsellors to provide support to their colleagues. Awareness-raising sessions will help reduce stigma and cover important mental health issues and topics, helping workers to recognise mental health symptoms and seek support.
Women currently make up 80% of the 4 million-strong ready-made-garments industry workforce in Bangladesh.
The project aims to set up a service to provide support for mental health in the workplace and improve the mental wellbeing of 2,500 RMG workers, predominantly women, across five factories and mills, said a press release.
In the garment sector, research has shown women are particularly vulnerable to developing a wide array of mental health issues, with consequent absenteeism and lower productivity.
It will draw on the experience of Sajida Foundation's work in ready-made-garments factories in Bangladesh and learnings from Primark's MySpace programme in India, both of which found that mental health services in factories and mills improved people's ability to deal with stress and problems.
Providing mental health services and improving mental health for workers will improve the wellbeing and working environment in the factories and mills overall. As the project develops, the British Asian Trust plans to work with key stakeholders to support better mental health across ready-made garment factories for all workers.
British Asian Trust Chief Executive Richard Hawkes said: "One in five people in Bangladesh will experience some form of mental health issue and women in particular often can't access services. This project is an innovative way to help break the silence, de-stigmatise mental illness and bust myths through training and counselling."
"It is ground-breaking work set to make a significant difference to garment workers mental wellbeing and which we hope can eventually be replicated across the garment sector in Bangladesh," he added.
Lindsey Block, Primark's Head of Social Impact, said "We have seen that initiatives to support garment workers' mental health can not only benefit individuals but can also reduce the stigma of those suffering from mental health issues. We look forward to supporting an effective peer-led counselling service for garment workers in Bangladesh in the near future."
Zahida Fizza Kabir, chief executive officer of Sajida Foundation, said, "A positive working environment can improve wellbeing and productivity while reducing absenteeism. Considering the contribution of the RMG sector in economic development and women empowerment, it is crucial to embed an integrated wellbeing strategy which will cover prevention, identification, support and rehabilitation."