Garment Workers in Bangladesh Given Access to Free Education

Young female garment workers in Bangladesh have been given the opportunity to receive an education from the Asian University for Women, graduating from the Pathways for Promise course.

The free program, which started in 2016 and has seen 470 young women enroll since the program began, is aimed at helping female workers become leaders in an effort to encourage women’s rights in the workforce.

The students from the garment industry receive a stipend or full pay from their employers monthly while they study, with many girls planning to return to the sector after they graduate to improve conditions in the garment industry. The industry in Bangladesh is the second-largest supplier of clothing to the Western world behind China. Labor rights and working conditions have deteriorated since a factory collapsed in the outskirts of Dhaka, which killed 1,136 workers.

“If 100 girls who are studying get into 100 factories, that can bring change because they have seen how difficult lives are for workers,” said Founder of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity Kalpona Akter. “If they join other industries, they will be empowered, but that won’t help our situation.”

The University, which hosts students from Asia and the Middle East pursuing degrees in philosophy, politics, and public health, is funded by donors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the IKEA Foundation. 

The program includes internships for the students and trains them to take on senior management positions in the country’s garment industry. 

The Realist Woman’s take: 

What an opportunity for these girls. Their entire lives are changed with access to education. This program was tailor-made for garment workers, as their work and education are so vital to the economy in Bangladesh. 

Investing in women will always bring about a generous return to families, communities, and entire economies. While some of the graduates plan on working in other industries to help further opportunities for the next generation of women, others plan on going back to the garment industry to help influence and improve the lives of the women working there.