DHAKA, October 29, 2011 — The World Bank yesterday approved US$29 million concessional IDA credit to Bangladesh to support the employment of poor and vulnerable women, coming from monga-prone areas, in the garment sector located in Export Processing Zones (EPZs).
The Northern Areas Reduction of Poverty Initiative (NARI) project will facilitate their employment by providing life-skills training, transitional housing, counseling and job placement services in the garment sector in three EPZs. The beneficiaries of the project will include about 10,800 women from five Northern districts, namely Gailbandha, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, and Rangpur, areas that suffer from seasonal deprivation and famine-like conditions, a phenomenon known as monga.
The NARI project will be the first World Bank financed operation in South Asia with a specific focus on the empowerment of vulnerable women through employment in the formal sector. Migration of poor women from the impoverished monga-prone northwestern districts to formal employment in the garment sector is substantially lower than that of poor women from other parts of the country.
“Over 80 percent of the three million workers in the thriving garment sector are women. Yet, they are often vulnerable: young, poor, sometimes illiterate and often single,” said Ellen Goldstein, Country Director, World Bank Bangladesh. "The project will help vulnerable women from the poorest region to overcome the difficulties of migration and give them a chance to successfully adapt to a new life."
The project aims to link the growth poles of Bangladesh’s rapidly expanding garment sector to one of the poorest and vulnerable groups in the country. The project will undertake awareness raising activities in the 5 pilot districts, where a screening and orientation program will be used to select appropriate candidates. The selected candidates will be helped to find employment in the Dhaka, Karnaphuli, and Ishwardi EPZs where dormitories and training centers will be constructed.
“Formal employment for women improves their control over income and their own lives, providing a viable alternative to early marriage, which in turn contributes to the reduction in fertility and the avoidance of health-related problems. It enhances their status with significant symbolic and economic benefits allowing women to gain greater independence, visibility and voice in public areas,” said Bhuvan Bhatnager, Task Team Leader, NARI project, World Bank.
The training centers will accommodate 300 trainees at a time. The dormitories attached to the training center will accommodate 600 women for a transitional period of six months. This will allow three more months for graduates to find permanent housing after completing the training.
The credit from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessionary arm, has 40 years to maturity with a 10-year grace period; it carries a service charge of 0.75 percent.