Paving the road to sustainable financial inclusion

Entrepreneurial ecosystems
Swisscontact Bangladesh and MetLife Foundation launched ‘Sarathi: Improving Financial Health’ to facilitate access to financial health solutions for low-income communities, especially RMG workers

‘Sarathi: Improving Financial Health’ formally launched on 21 June 2022, with a vision to enable a network of self-sustaining public and private partnerships aimed at improving the financial health of low-income communities, especially ready-made garments (RMG) workers in Bangladesh. It is a 24-month financial inclusion project, co-funded by Swisscontact and MetLife Foundation.

The Honorable Planning Minister of Bangladesh, M A Mannan MP, virtually graced the launching ceremony as chief guest and inaugurated the project through his speech where he also mentioned, ‘The Sarathi project has taken a massive target to improve the financial health of the RMG workers. While their goal is ambitious, I feel they have the ability to pull this off. I wish this project success.

The Special Guests, Mohammad Hatem, Executive President, Bangladesh Knitwear Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BKMEA), and Ala Ahmad, CEO, MetLife Bangladesh, highlighted the need for initiatives like Sarathi for the overall financial inclusion of the RMG sector. Prajna Paramita Saha, Additional Director, Financial Inclusion Department, Bangladesh Bank, delivered the keynote speech where she mentioned, ‘In addition to the different financial services, developing financial literacy among the workers is also very important.’

The event featured a stimulating panel discussion on ‘Advancing financial inclusion in Bangladesh: Creating opportunities for RMG workers’ with representatives from the financial ecosystem and RMG sector. Mohammad Hatem, Executive President, BKMEA; Asif Ibrahim, Director, BGMEA, Mohammad Rashed, Joint Director, Bangladesh Bank; Mohd. Ziaul H. Molla, DMD, Bank Asia Limited; Rahel Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer, Nagad; and Major General Sheikh Md. Monirul Islam (retd), Chief External & Corporate Affairs Officer, bKash Limited; and Zahangir Alam, Responsible Sourcing and Social Labour Manager, BESTSELLER provided invaluable insights on the subject matter. The session was moderated by the team leader of the Sarathi project, Bipasha S. Hossain.

Krishna Thacker, Assistant Vice President, MetLife Foundation; Manish Pandey, Regional Director, Swisscontact South Asia; and Cezanne Mujibul Hasan, Country Director, Swisscontact Bangladesh also contributed through their inspiring words emphasizing the role good financial health plays in the sustainability of financial inclusion.

Key representatives from the central bank, the banking, financial, and fintech ecosystems, the RMG industry and buyer brands, the donor community, and other relevant stakeholders were present at the event to align on a shared vision and ideate financial solutions that would provide opportunities for millions of the unbanked population of Bangladesh and help them advance towards a more confident future.

Continuing Vocational Education and Training
Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garment exporter, with the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) sector accounting for over 83% of the country’s exports and contributing approximately 16% to the GDP. The garment industry consists of more than 4,000 RMG factories and employs between four to five million workers of which almost 60% are women. Even though RMG the sector plays such a pivotal role in the economy of Bangladesh, only 34% of it was included in the formal financial system in 2016 when Swisscontact started to work towards the financial inclusion of RMG workers and their community members.