Learning-Sharing Workshop Conducted in Bangladesh






South Asia

On July 21, BLAST’s Research Program Manager Atif Choudhury attended a “learning-sharing workshop” conducted by the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), ROLC’s implementing partner for its ongoing Bangladesh Empowering Workers for Justice (EWJ) project supported by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). BLAST is the only organization in Bangladesh which uses the Self-Help Group (SHG) model to organize workers into pre-union bodies, and EWJ established 10 SHGs in Dhaka, Chattrogram, Rajshahi, Khulna, and Gazipur. This learning-sharing workshop was an opportunity to learn from beneficiary workers serving as SHG leaders, as well as project staff. 
The workshop was a full-day event conducted entirely in Bangla, and featured BLAST’s home office M&E team, advocacy team, and legal team; EWJ’s staff lawyers and paralegals; prominent leather goods trade union leaders; and SHG leaders, paralegals, and negotiators from all 10 Self Help Groups. 

The workers shared information on the labor conditions at the national, divisional, municipal, and factory level. The workers also noted that the EWJ’s visual educational materials were very effective, as thousands of workers and members of the general public saw these materials. They also praised BLAST’s Sromik Jigyasha (“workers’ queries”) app. Workers also highlighted a number of success stories from the EWJ project. Workers were able to negotiate significant, concrete wage increases. They also secured overtime, the provision of safety equipment, maternity leave, and other benefits and improvements in work conditions–many of which have become industry standard i.e., become built-in benefits which workers will not have to re-negotiate for. EWJ lawyers and paralegals also stated their strategy of targeting smaller factories which provided little to no such benefits to their workers. They noted that once one of the factories adopted changes, it was more likely that other factories would adopt the same changes so they could “keep up” with the competition and attract workers. ROLC’s Atif Choudhury gave an opening address, distributed chocolates to the workers during key mapping exercises, asked questions to the SHG members and project staff during the “success stories presentations”, gave concluding remarks, and distributed high-quality construction gloves that he purchased for the SHG’s construction workers.