More than 50 million (5 crore) people involved in the country’s informal sector have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic. Women and adolescent girls engaged in this sector still suffered the worst of all. Participation in the labour market through effective skills training should be a high priority to assist them in recovering the situation. Speakers expressed these views at a discussion organised by BRAC’s Skills Development Programme (SDP) today on Thursday (2 December) at the BRAC Centre at Mohakhali in the capital.
K M Tarikul Islam, director-general, NGO Affairs Bureau, attended the event titled “Tackling Covid-19 adversities on girls and young women through skills training in the informal sector” as chief guest. Md Abul Kalam Azad, former principal coordinator (SDG affairs) at the Prime Minister’s Office was present as the special guest.
AFM Shahidur Rahman, director, Programme Development-Asia, PRL and Monitoring Department, BRAC, delivered the welcome speech, followed by a keynote presentation by Nobonita Chowdhury, director, Gender Justice & Diversity and Preventing Violence Against Women Initiative, BRAC, on the current state of girls and young women in the informal sector. Tasmiah Tabassum Rahman, in-charge, Skills Development Programme, BRAC, and Dr Narayan Chandra Das, senior research fellow, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), gave another presentation on “Skills interventions for mitigating risks on girls and young women - skills training for advancing resources (star), an apprenticeship-based skills training model”.
Veera Mendonca, deputy representative, UNICEF Bangladesh, Shahriar Islam, senior programme manager, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Mirza Nurul Ghani Shovon honoured as Commercially Important Person status by the government, chairman, Informal Sector Industry Skills Council, spoke as panel speakers.
The speakers observed that the informal sector has been the worst affected in terms of the country’s labour market. The situation has its direct impact on the people involved in the sector, risking the livelihood of 52 million (5 crore 20 lakh) people. Women are the worst sufferer as nearly 91.8 per cent of total women labour force are engaged in informal economy.
A research carried out by BRAC last year (2020) revealed that regular earning dropped by 66 per cent for women involved in the informal sector, while their opportunities for work reduced by 24 per cent. Apart from these, the risk of dropping out of school has seen an alarming rise due to a prolonged shutdown of educational institutions and economic crisis, which has its inevitable adverse impact on other social situations.
Another study reveals that child marriage saw a staggering rise by 220 per cent between July and September last year. Experts mostly put down the causes to staying out of school and earning.
To recover from the crisis, BRAC puts particular emphasis on the re-engagement of women in the labour market and has accordingly designed its programmes and activities to fulfil that aim.
NGO Affairs Bureau director-general KM Tarikul Islam said, “All the organisations are working to fulfil the aim to have 10 million (1 crore) people employed in the Mujib Borsho (Birth Centenary of Mujib). The government has created a number of industries which will provide employment to women as well. But it’s a big challenge to tackle which the non-state development actors should come forward to assist the government.”
Former principal coordinator for SDG affairs at the PMO Md Abul Kalam Azad said, “In Bangladesh over 18 million (1.8 crore) women are employed in the labour market. We must also think what crisis these women may face in their livelihoods in case the Omicron variant of Corona virus spread in Bangladesh. We have to be adequately prepared to tackle the situation.”
In his closing remarks BRAC’s senior director KAM Morshed said, “It is a time when skills development should be a planned option. Many young people can choose skills development education instead of pursuing the path of conventional education.”