Between May 2019 and August 2020, 10 companies in the Khulna division of Bangladesh committed to provide on-site family planning counseling and services in partnership with their district’s family planning office. The companies, eight located in Bagerhat district and two in Khulna district, are allocating space and time for their employees to receive services during the work day. District governments are supplying commodities and supporting visits from health providers twice a week. After an initial delay due to COVID-19, services are now available at all 10 companies as of October 2020. This public-private partnership will give an estimated 11,000 employees access to family planning information and services.
Khulna division is an important economic zone in Bangladesh . Located in the coastal belt region, it is a hub for fiber, fish, and sugar companies. More than a quarter of the divisions’s population are employed by these informal sectors, and about half of employees at fishing companies are young women .
Advance Family Planning local partner Marie Stopes Bangladesh and subgrantee Shushilan conducted a landscape analysis in May and June 2018 with support from public and private sector leaders in the Khulna division. They found that family planning services were generally inaccessible to local workers. Most employees work 10 to 12 hours a day, and are not home when family welfare visitors conduct door-to-door visits to provide family planning information and referrals.
In April 2019, Marie Stopes Bangladesh and Shushilan presented their findings to government representatives and members of the Bagerhat and Khulna district advocacy working groups. The working groups identified an opportunity for the districts to partner with companies to offer family planning services on-site during work hours.
Company leaders initially expressed concerns about offering such services, including production time lost and a potential loss in profits, as well as increased regulation of their businesses resulting from their partnership with local government. Government officials then facilitated a series of meetings with company leaders to address these concerns and clarify their objective to improve employee health.
In August 2019, district family planning authorities visited the companies to document client demand and service delivery needs and share their expertise. Marie Stopes Bangladesh and local partners used the information to advocate for expansion of this effort with additional companies, leading to another two fishing companies partnering with the district in May 2020. An additional four fishing companies and one jute fiber manufacturing company in both districts entered partnerships in August 2020, bringing the total to 10. The deputy director of family planning for the Khulna district approved the latest partnership agreements in September 2020.
The first five companies were shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying implementation of services. Three reopened and began providing services again in May 2020, one began in July, and the other in August. The five companies that joined the initative in August 2020 began providing services in October.
Shushilan and the district working groups will support their respective family planning offices to implement the partnerships and ensure quality services. Advocates are now looking to expand this effort to other companies in Bagerhat and Khulna and replicate it with other districts in the region.
- Tinker, H. R., & Husain, S.S. (April 2020). Bangladesh. Encyclopedia Brittanica, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Bangladesh/Economy
- Karim, M. R., Saadi, A., & Tamanna, T. (2015). Labour in Fishing Sector of Bangladesh Mapping, Status and Awareness about Rights. Retrieved from http://bilsbd.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Labour-in-Fishing-Sector-of-Bangladesh.pdf