The Sarathi – Improving Financial Health project (November 2021-October 2023) aims at bringing Ready-Made Garment (RMG) workers into the sphere of formal banking services and improve their financial health. Good financial health allows a person to conduct day-to-day transactions smoothly, develop financial resilience and plan for a financially secure future. The project builds on previous project phases which focused on the wage digitisation of the RMG sector. Now that a large portion of the RMG workers which were previously considered as “unbankable” owns a bank account, the focus of the Sarathi project has shifted to promote customized, and preferably digital formal financial services in the RMG communities that improve the financial health of the RMG workers and community members. The promoted services include customized savings, insurance, and loan products. In addition, a new area of intervention aims at reducing RMG workers’ risk of losing their employment due to the automation in the RMG industry. Low-skilled jobs are usually the first to be cut. To improve their job prospects, the Sarathi project facilitates a skill upgrading training programme for low-skilled workers. Furthermore, interested women from the RMG communities can take part in an entrepreneurship training programme and receive support to start their own business. The project will conduct the following activities:
Component 1: Improving the financial health of RMG workers
Component 2: Up-skilling female RMG workers
The project goals for the second phase (2021-2023) are:
The Sarathi – Progress through Financial Inclusion project was one of the pioneering initiatives in Bangladesh that promoted the financial inclusion of RMG workers and their community members. It had done so by establishing effective partnerships with relevant stakeholders to promote wage digitisation, financial literacy, and access to suitable financial products that also benefited the RMG factories and commercial banks. Thanks to the project, RMG workers had for the first time access to formal financial services through their newly opened bank accounts, awareness regarding the benefits of formal financial services, and the necessary financial knowledge required to avail those services, such as formal savings and credit opportunities. The experience of designing and implementing sustainable business models helped Sarathi understand the industry dynamics and the needs of RMG workers and their community members, which now serves as a building block for the ongoing project.
The Sarathi project is financed by the MetLife Foundation and the Happel Foundation. It is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA.