- Unique IPEC-backed concept reaps benefits in garment industry
A project that features a unique concept of child
labour monitoring and social rehabilitation, based on an agreement
between employers and United Nations bodies, and endorsed by the
national government, has made its mark in the Bangladeshi garment
industry. The BGMEA/ILO/UNICEF Child Labour project - a world-first
in which an entire industry has pledged to free its workplace of
child labour - has become a replicable model and is already being
applied in other countries and other industries.
Between 1995, when the project was launched, and
end-1998, the number of textile factories employing children was
reduced from nearly 45 per cent to 2.5 per cent of the total. The
actual number of children employed was reduced from nearly 10,000
in 1995 to around 1,500.
Begun by children
Bangladeshi children workers themselves were responsible
for the project's inception, appealing to ILO and UNICEF to act
after massive layoffs, brought on by the threat of a US boycott
of Bangladeshi goods, put them on the streets.
IPEC was instrumental in convincing the Bangladeshi
Garment Manufacturers' Association (BGMEA) not to take such radical
action but instead to stream children more gradually into education
and compensate their loss of income.
The Memorandum of Understanding
In 1995, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed
to this end between BGMEA, ILO and UNICEF, with the support of the
Government and the United States, and also to prevent further recruitment
of children under 14.
Four key components of the MoU were:
n an initial fact-finding survey
n a special education programme
n monitoring and verification of withdrawal
n income compensation for the children
The fact-finding survey was conducted in 1995 and
revealed a total of 9,546 child workers in the garment industry.
UNICEF took on the three-year educational component
in association with two national NGOs, and financial commitments
were made by all sides. Enrolment in the special informal schooling
programme reached a peak of 8,138 genuine ex-garment child workers,
meaning that twin objectives of withdrawal and rehabilitation were
IPEC led in setting up this aspect of the agreement
and monitors were specially trained both to carry out continuous
regular and surprise inspections in all the industry's factories
and workshops, and to monitor school attendance. The quality of
the monitors and of their training proved to be a cornerstone in
the success of the project. The number of visits to factories in
the city of Dhaka increased from 1,609 in 1996, to 4,542 in 1997,
to reach 6,104 in 1998. Monitoring continued into the year 2000.
To ensure that children did not drift back into
work elsewhere, a stipend of Tk. 300 per month was agreed for each
child withdrawn and placed into the informal education programme.
This, clearly, has been a costly and controversial exercise, but
has the advantage of having provided a vital learning experience
for other projects.
Local Steering Committee
To oversee and coordinate the implementation of
the MoU, a local Steering Committee was set up with members taken
from BGMEA, UNICEF and ILO. It dealt mainly with non-compliance
and punitive measures, non-cooperation, running of schools and measures
to avoid school drop-out.
Awareness-raising was an essential part of the
project. Publicity campaigns were run and informed not only the
Bangladeshi public but also attracted international interest in
the programme model. The BGMEA/ILO/UNICEF Child Labour project ran
until June 2000. Plans to continue monitoring are in hand.
nwith partner commitment
a considerable reduction of employed children can be achieved within
n success lies in an independent,
credible and transparent monitoring and verification system
n income compensation options are
n an economic viable income loss alternative
n funding for all segments of a project
must be obtained up front
n partners need to exchange and process
data on a common electronic platform
n to ensure the sustainability of
a monitoring and verification system, efforts need to be made to
build up a private sector- based quality assurance system as well
as capacity building for law enforcement bodies.