Chittagong-based Asian University for Women will be providing free tertiary education to the female workforce of the Bangladeshi apparel factories. The initiative taken up under the aegis of donors like the Ikea Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is another step towards alleviating low literacy levels in the country, especially amongst the female workforce.
Under the initiative, (which can also be classified as an Employee Engagement initiative) the schooling fee is covered by the university and placement is only given when the employer agrees to pay the women’s wages for the duration of the course. Although initially the employers were reluctant to enter the agreement, the response is slowly warming up. Names like Ananta Group are already on board with the scheme.
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As it currently stands, 65 per cent of girls in Bangladesh are married before the age of 18, and 29 per cent before they are 15. As UNICEF reports, many girls are pushed into early marriage to relieve financial pressures on struggling families. As a result, many girls are not able to complete their education. The university’s first intake was in 2011. Several women have now graduated with degrees, many of whom are the first in their villages to ever get a degree.
Various reports and coverages have time and again emphasised the apparel industry’s role in empowerment of the country’s women. Women and girls have often joined the industry to escape early marriages and secure independent lives. These women go on to further inspire their female acquaintances.