Vocational training for young textile workers in Bangladesh
Children in Bangladesh are working for a multitude of reasons ranging from poverty and ignorance, to lack of access to educational opportunities. With their low skills and weak bargaining position, these children are cheaply employed and easily dismissed. All of this leads to a strong demand for child labour in Bangladesh. However, it may be noted that a vast majority of the children asserted that given the opportunity, they would attend school.
Consequently, as a part of H&M's social responsibility program, we are financing development projects that are related to our Code of Conduct and the abolition of child labour (available at www.hm.com <http://www.hm.com>).
Vocational training for young textile workers in Bangladesh is one example. The programme is intended to train ex-child labourers who previously lost their job due to being under age. The children have been given basic education in the so called MOU-schools set up according to the MOU between the US and Bangladesh governments. H&M's training project includes a four-month theoretical and three-month practical program that leads to guaranteed employment as a machine operator at one of H&M's suppliers.
H&M pays the students' wages during the course as a means of support to their families. The project began in spring 1999 and as of today, the 8th batch of students has just started their training. Currently, 55 students train in each class.This kind of project makes possible a long-term commitment that enables us to develop models for sustainable social development. The need for vocational training in Bangladesh is enormous.
In line with our expectations and goals, the education level for the students, theoretically and practically, have improved. The students are not only trained to be first grade sewing operators, but also are taught to be positive thinkers and socially aware.
According to the consultant, employed by UNICEF, the achievement is described as follows: ?One cannot deny that H&M?s initiative to facilitate skill training for the concerned children in Bangladesh is highly praise worthy. Being an international buying house, this initiative is not necessarily required by H&M. Despite this, it took the drive and proved to be successful in promoting its idea. In fact, it has set an example for the local manufacturers and the concerned organizations, how such important and required project can be implemented in a country like Bangladesh?.
Last but not least, a wish for this initiative is that it would spawn similar training programs as well as raise the awareness of the need of dealing with these issues in a way so that the youngsters and their families are the focus. The project has also received international acclaim. UNICEF's goodwill ambassador Claudia Schiffer has visited the center, and last year the former US foreign secretary Madeleine Albright met one of the students during her visit to Dhaka.
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