Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility

Women garment factory workers in Bangladesh take part in a training.

CARE International UK, CARE Bangladesh, and Marks & Spencer joined forces as part of the UK Government funded Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility (VSCF) to increase health care to low-income women from urban communities who work in the garment industry in Bangladesh. The Facility, which is managed by Mott MacDonald, was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to strengthen global supply chains that had been hit particularly hard – with women at the forefront of those affected. The Facility partners with 20 UK and international retailers and brands, and nine not-for-profit organisations, supporting over 100 suppliers across Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Myanmar, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. It is providing economic, social, and health benefits to around one million women and men directly and indirectly.  
In Bangladesh, women and girls bear the burden of this crisis as negative gender norms, which already limit women’s decision making over health and access to health services, are compounded. CARE’s rapid assessment showed 33% of women reporting physical abuse, lack of COVID-19 safety awareness, 100% indicated increased mental pressure, health services including ante and post-natal care have reduced by up to 87%.  
CARE and Marks & Spencer’s partnership is delivering immediate and medium-term health interventions that build on the successful approach and infrastructure of the five-year HALOW+ project. The partnership is working to increase access to primary health care services through strengthening the urban primary health care system in garment factories and communities, including establishing digital well-being centres and by facilitating linkages with health service providers. CARE is conducting situational analyses for assessing factories, and training on health, hygiene, COVID-19, and gender-based violence (GBV) to factory workers, health champions, factory management, factory medical teams, government frontline health workers, community people and committees at factory and community level. In addition, the program is strengthening community and factory approaches to addressing GBV in the context of COVID-19 as well as strengthening community platforms and empowering communities by developing their leadership and management capacity to lead community activities and maintain sexual and reproductive health and integrated water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure. 

Access to health care is provided to women garment factory workers through in-person visits and digital tools
Access to health care is provided to women garment factory workers through in-person visits and digital tools.

The partnership expects that as many as 80,000 garment workers across an initial 25 factories will be reached with increased awareness of COVID-19 and GBV and that up to 10,000 beneficiaries will visit digital well-being centres. Overall, the program will improve knowledge on health, hygiene or risk messaging on COVID 19 which will reduce vulnerability to health crisis as well as increase access to (and use of) primary health services for the factory workers and community members.

Fiona Sadler, Head of Ethical Trading at M&S says: 

At M&S we have a robust approach to ethical fashion - we know we’re only as strong as the communities where we operate, and we’re committed to helping improve the lives of workers in our supply chain through collaborative initiatives. We’re proud to be partnering again with FCDO and CARE to strengthen healthcare systems and services in our factories in Bangladesh and the wider community.