The Sarathi – Progress Through Improved Financial Health project is dedicated to bringing ready-made garment (RMG) workers into the sphere of formal banking services and improving their financial health. Achieving good financial health empowers individuals to conduct smooth day-to-day transactions, develop financial resilience and plan for a financially secure future. Building upon previous project years that targeted the wage digitisation of the RMG sector, the project now expands its focus. With a significant portion of RMG workers, who were once considered unsuitable for formal banking services, now owning a bank account, the project evolved to promote customised and preferably digital formal financial services within the RMG communities. This strategic approach is geared towards improving the financial health of the RMG workers and their community members, promoting a range of services, including customised savings, insurance, and loan products. Moreover, RMG workers face the risk of potential job losses due to automation in the RMG industry. Particularly low-skilled jobs, mostly held by female workers, are usually the first to be cut. To improve their employability and long-term job retention prospects, the Sarathi project facilitates a skill‑upgrading training programme for low‑skilled workers, with a particular focus on women. Additionally, in an effort to enhance the economic resilience of women workers, especially considering layoffs, the Sarathi project supports entrepreneurship for women within the RMG communities. Interested women from the RMG communities can participate in an entrepreneurship training programme and receive support to start or grow their own businesses. The project has been conducting 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 (November 2021 – April 2024) 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.