On 5- 6 September, in collaboration HSBC, WaterAid and WWF will welcome visitors to their interactive stand at the Hong Kong Fashion Summit. The activation demonstrates how sustainable solutions for clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene throughout the apparel supply chain will not only transform the lives of factory workers and their families, but will also hugely improve their surrounding environment. Visitors will learn of the transformational changes that can be brought about by improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
Meet Momena, whose life has been transformed by WASH intervention at her place of work.
32 year old Momena Khatun has been working as a Sewing Operator at a readymade garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh for the past five years. Her husband, Kabir Mia also works in the factory. Although the family struggle with their limited income, their sons have enrolled in school so that they receive the best start possible.
Their home district is Mymensingh, but Momena and Kabir now live in a rented room with their two sons in Naraynaganj, which is closer to the factory where they work. The standard of WASH facilities in their temporary accomodation is very poor and this can make their living arrangement difficult. There are only two toilets including bathing facilities for the 40 people living in their tenancy. This means that Momena and her family face congestion using the bathrooms every morning and the factory workers have to rush so as not to be late to work. Often, due to having to share such limited facilities with many others, she arrives at work late or having not been able to wash or use the toilet. This can have a negative impact on Momena’s health and productivity at work. The inadequate toilet facilities also results in the children frequently practicing open defecation. This makes them vulnerable to diarrhoeal illnesses and can cause them to miss school. Additionally, the two toilets available to the tenants are in a poor state of repair and are extremely dirty. This has meant that their living environments are unhygienic and unhealthy.
However, things changed when, thanks to the funding from HSBC, WaterAid have renovated the facilities in their tenancy. Three toilet facilities have now been constructed with separate cubicles for men and women to ensure privacy. Segregated bathing facilities have also been built, in addition to handwashing facilities and safe drinking water points. Through the project, the local community were engaged to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining the facilities in a hygienic way. Discussions took place to educate community members on how everyone can play a part in ensuring the WASH facilities remain clean.
“Separate female toilets and bathing facilities have really changed our living conditions. We faced real difficulties in using toilets in the morning in front of men. Now I am comfortable and not hesitant to use the toilets and take showers when I need. The new look and cleanliness of the toilet and hygiene messages have encouraged us to maintain our toilets well. I am very happy and thankful to the project for their support to our community”.
This renovation work has transformed the environment of the garment workers’ settlement and having access to water and sanitation facilities has had a huge impact on the community’s lives. Now, Momena is able to manage her morning toilet and washing routine and, in the last two months, has been able to arrive at work on time every day. Access to water, sanitation and hygiene has transformed the lives of these garment workers, enabling them to live healthy, productive and dignified lives.
In 2018, WaterAid and HSBC launched a programme which delivers essential WASH services to apparel factories and nearby worker communities in Bangladesh and India. WaterAid’s work in apparel supply chains transforms the lives of factory workers and their surrounding communities. Through this, WaterAid ensures that their investment in WASH extends beyond the workplace. This not only improves health and the quality of life for workers and their families, but also increases supply chain resilience and business productivity, while encouraging sustainable fashion through fair working environments.
WaterAid’s presence at the Hong Kong Fashion Summit with our partners HSBC and WWF aims to raise awareness of the ways the apparel industry can make the vital changes to achieve a sustainable future for all.