Northern areas of Bangladesh are amongst the poorest in the country. Women in particular, have difficulty finding alternative employment as they are isolated from the major industrial centres. The Northern Areas Reduction of Poverty Initiative (NARI) project aims to economically empower poor and vulnerable women from the north western districts by facilitating their access to jobs in the readymade garments sector in Dhaka and Chittagong. The project helps the vulnerable women to overcome the difficulties of migration and to get a chance to successfully adapt to city life. The garments industry in Bangladesh have played a significant role in providing economic benefits to poor and vulnerable women. Control over income also provides women with a viable alternative to early marriage that in turn contributes to reduction in fertility. Today around 80% of the garment workers are women. Yet the number of poor women from impoverished northwestern districts joining the garments sector as much lower than the number of poor women from other parts of the country. Female garment workers constitute a highly vulnerable group. Young, poor, unskilled sometimes illiterate and often single women in a society dominated by strong gender hierarchies. With hardly any support system in place, the first few months in the city and at the factory are the most hazardous, deterring many women in desperate need of work.
The NARI project (Nari means women in Bangla) aims to provide training, transitional housing, counselling and job placement services in garment factories to migrating poor and vulnerable women. About 10,800 will be recruited on a self selection basis from 5 monga prone districts in northern Bangladesh. After screening the selected women will be given an orientation course so they can make an informal decision about beginning a new life in one of three Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in Dhaka, Karnaphuli or Ishwardi. They will be settled into newly built complexes, with transitional housing facilities at dormitories and training centres, giving them time to develop social networks and support systems. The training will allow women to enter factories as semi-skilled workers rather than unskilled workers. The trainees will also receive life fertility. The dormitories attached to the training centre will accommodate 600 women for a transitional period of 6 months at a time. Finally the women will be recruited into garments factories at the EPZ through an employment bureau at each training centre.
Gaibandha, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and Rangpur.
Northern Areas Reduction of Poverty Initiative