The SGRA Project in Bangladesh (October-November)

The JILAF visited Bogra and Khulna where the project is being conducted (October 21-29) and the capital Dhaka (November 6-11) for the SGRA (Supporting Grass-Roots Activities through the International Employers’ and Workers’ Network) project in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, since there are many informal-sector workers who did not have the opportunity to receive school education and do not possess basic occupational skills, the project focuses on the vocational trainings in Bogra, Khulna and Chittagong in the current fiscal year. The Roundtable, which is the project’s policymaking body for this project in Bangladesh, confirmed activities at its first meeting in May of this year, and the Working Group then proceeded with preparations for the start of the vocational trainings. The JILAF’s visits in October were to attend opening ceremonies for the vocational trainings.

The vocational trainings began in Bogra on 24th October and in Khulna on 26th October at vocational training schools operated by the government’s Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET). There are courses on sewing, Batik-Butik, driving, computer operation, and welding; 53 informal-sector workers participated in Bogra and 52 in Khulna.

Usually such training courses continue for long periods of three months, six months, or over a year. Since informal-sector workers are unable to take long-term leave from their jobs. , in collaboration with the BMET, training was reorganised especially for this project, and depending on content, the courses last for 30 days or 45 days. During this visit, discussions also took place with the Regional Working Groups.

Since a general election is scheduled to be held in Bangladesh in December or January, the political situation at the time was becoming increasingly unstable nationwide, with opposition-led general strikes, called hartal, occurring frequently. In Chittagong, where the SGRA project is also being implemented, the vocational training was scheduled to begin on 27th October, but the JILAF was unable to attend the opening ceremony because of a disruption caused by a three-day nationwide general strike starting on that day. Subsequently, however, the Working Group of the Bangladesh Council of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-BC), the Regional Working Group in Chittagong and the JILAF’s local coordinator rearranged the schedule, and vocational training in Chittagongstarted on 31st October, with 47 people participating in the same courses offered in Bogra and Khulna.

In the opening ceremonies in Bogra and Khulna, the JILAF representative encouraged the participants, saying, “Your efforts are most important for the social and economic development of Bangladesh, and we hope you will do your very best with the feeling that you will be supporting the future of your country.”

The SGRA project, which aims to improve the livelihood of informal-sector workers, consists of the life support seminars (LSS), the training of trainers (TOT) to develop leaders for SGRA shops and cooperatives, which are planned to be established, and vocational trainings. This is implemented in Thailand and Nepal as well as Bangladesh, and, however, Bangladesh has stepped ahead of the other countries in realising bridging the participants with vocational training programmes provided by the government.

In the visit in November, the JILAF attended the second Roundtable meeting held in Dhaka on 8th November and the fourth Working Group meeting held on 9th November, summarised the activities in the current fiscal year and confirmed action plan and specific activities for the next fiscal year.

In the second Roundtable meeting, the achievements in the current fiscal year were reported, and the Roundtable members expressed their appreciations to JILAF for its cooperation. Some members also expressed their commitment to extend further cooperation and involvement to this project. The JILAF, explained the draft project action plan and the activity plan for the next fiscal year. The members confirmed that in the next fiscal year they would further strengthen their commitment to the project, hold specific discussions toward the establishment of the SGRA shops and cooperatives, which are planned to be set up as one of its future visions, and implement the trainings of trainers. In the fourth Working Group meeting, the members discussed specific improvements to be made in light of the project’s implementation in the current fiscal year and discussed how to facilitate smoother implementation of the project in the coming fiscal year. The members of the Working Group gave forward-looking opinions, such as “We are realising concrete achievement in this project. We will commit myself to this project with our utmost effort.”

Date                 Schedule
10/24 Thu   Start of vocational training in Bogra; opening ceremony
          Discussion with SGRA Bogra Regional Working Group members

10/26 Fri    Start of vocational training in Khulna; opening ceremony
           Discussion with SGRA Khulna Regional Working Group members


10/21Tue2nd Roundtable meeting
10/22Wed4th Working Group meeting

Photos of the Participants

Embroidery training (Bogra)

Computer training (Bogra)

Transport in Dhaka was paralyzed by a general strike (from hotel).