2nd National Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights at Workplace
On September 17, to raise awareness and encourage collaborations among the stakeholders, the 2nd National Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights at Workplace took place at Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban, University of Dhaka. This conference was a joint effort of the Department of Population Sciences, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, with funding support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Meher Afroz Chumki, MP and Honourable Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Bangladesh Parliament attended the inaugural session as the chief guest; while Professor Dr Md Akhtaruzzaman, Honourable Vice-Chancellor, University of Dhaka inaugurated the conference. Amongst the others, His Excellency Harry Verweij, Ambassador, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bangladesh attended as the guest of honour; Jason Belanger, Country Director, Bangladesh, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, and Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director, International Labour Organization (ILO), Bangladesh attended as special guests; Professor Dr Mohammad Mainul Islam, Chairman, Department of Population Sciences, University of Dhaka chaired the session.
The keynote was presented by renowned global health and development professional, Dr Halida Hanum Akhter. The conference brought together academia, activists, researchers, private sectors, NGOs and donors to discuss problems and solutions impacting the lives of individuals, including women and their ability to exercise and access SRHR at the workplace, and showcased 18 abstracts on SRHR issues.
During his inaugural speech, Professor Dr Md Akhtaruzzaman, Honourable Vice-Chancellor, University of Dhaka said: “It is indeed a big concern for a non-inclusive society like ours; SRHR is highly relevant to the women working in the RMG sector and similarly important to our students to learn and act on this.”
In her speech, Meher Afroz Chumki said: “SRHR is a neglected issue in Bangladesh, and now we have to change our mindset to work on the SRHR issues. We have to take serious initiatives for the female RMG workers for their SRHR needs. Ensuring Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights is important to attain SDGs, and our government has been working on this.”
His Excellency Harry Verweij specified that SRHR and health-related initiatives are still seen as “just doing good for the workers”, and not as important contributors to business benefits. However, through our intervention with Working With Women by SNV, we have been able to create evidence that these initiatives can really benefit your business.
Family planning, pregnancy related services and neglected issues of SRHR which are gender based violence and HIV/AIDS at the workplace, also adolescent engagement in promoting SRHR education and service were the topics discussed in the national conference.