Every year, a large number of job-seekers from Bangladesh, both male and female, go abroad in search of a livelihood. Bangladesh is one of the top remittance receiving countries in the world and currently around 10 million documented and undocumented Bangladeshi migrants are working around the world. Remittances from migrant workers is one of the largest sources of foreign currency for the country and makes a significant contribution to the national GDP. However, little is done to protect the rights of migrant workers at home and abroad, address their grievances and to ensure safe migration that is beneficial to the workers. The lack of institutional support available to workers often lead to abuse of workers and suffering for their families. This is especially the case for female workers who regularly face precarious working conditions, sexual harassment and violence and non-payment of wages, among other issues.
Awaj Foundation’s involvement in migration work stemmed from the need of its members who were migrating for RMG and domestic sector work abroad. Awaj’s overseas migration program assists workers, particularly migrant women, through all stages of the migration process. Our activities in this area include:
- Pre-departure administrative support, including help with passport, visa, medical checks, bank loans, etc.
- Awareness building on migrants’ rights among workers, their family members and communities
- Emergency response to victims of workplace abuse, including repatriation of injured and deceased workers
- Legal support for workplace complaints, arbitration for resolving salary disputes and non-compensation cases
- Providing support on reintegration and rehabilitation
- Documentation of migrants’ rights violations and media outreach to raise awareness among the general population on these issues
- Providing training to grassroots organizations and migrants’ rights advocates on safe labor migration and anti-trafficking (over 23 trainers trained so far)
- Undertaking national campaigns on safe migration and anti-trafficking
- National & International networking and advocacy for better migration policy development
Awaj is currently working on strengthening its cooperation with international organizations, in particular, unions in receiving countries, in order to bolster its support to migrants while they are abroad. Awaj Foundation is a member of regional networks CARAM Asia, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) and GAATW (Global Action Against Trafficking in Women). We have received special accreditation from UN ECOSOC to speak on migration issues.
Awaj focuses on supporting women workers who migrate abroad for RMG sector work. We also advocate for migrant workers’ rights in regional and international platforms.
In February, 2018, Awaj, in collaboration with ILO, held an international workshop on Bangladeshi women workers who are migrating abroad for RMG sector work. This high-level workshop was the first on this topic in Bangladesh and was attended by the Honorable Minister Mr. Nurul Islam of the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment, the ILO country representative, national and international civil society organizations and representatives of unions in receiving countries.