Close to Mothers,
Care to Infants

The majority of the garment industry’s workers in Bangladesh are women – up to 80 per cent by some estimates. Many of Bangladesh’s workers are migrants from rural area – without networks of family or friends and women must often choose between unemployment or working while leaving their children behind to fend for themselves.


One social entrepreneur, however, has steadily made progress partnering with communities and garment factories to improve the lives of women workers and their children. Ashoka Fellow Suraiya Haque founded Phulki in 1991, and today the organisation operates nearly 90 community-based, and 25 factory-based daycares in Dhaka.

Caretakers at the daycares are trained in early childhood development, nutrition, and hygiene. And each month, Phulki meets with mothers – and occasionally fathers – for nutrition education, and offers trainings on labour, sexual, and reproductive rights.

Phulki means “spark” in Bangla. The name reflects the organisation’s broader mission to kindle the socio- economic development of female workers, and to serve as “a flicker of light to the lives of disadvantaged communities.” Its innovative model ultimately uses

Childcare services as a launching point to deliver life- saving, health-related information to all workers. With the consent of factory management, Phulki also conducts a health awareness initiative at factories. This year, 90,000 men and women workers completed the program.


"Suraiya’s subsequent daycares became factory-based, ensuring that women wouldn’t have to relinquish critical child-rearing responsibilities in order to work"

Bangladesh Bank has been playing a pivotal role in promoting sustainable industrialization through green financing. It has introduced three types of refinancing facility -- BB refinance scheme, Asian Development Bank (ADB) supported refinance scheme, and refinance scheme funded by Shari’ah based banks and financial institutes.

Interest rate for these green loans varies from 6% to 9% depending on the banks capacity interest and relation with their clients. As per the decision of the central bank, all the banks and financial institutions have to disburse 5% of their total loan in green financing.


After establishing several neighbourhood-based daycares, Suraiya discovered that many women employed in garment factories were unable to travel between work and the daycares to breastfeed their young children. Suraiya’s subsequent daycares became factory-based, ensuring that women wouldn’t have to relinquish critical child- rearing responsibilities in order to work.

The costs are shared between factories and workers, which keeps the daycare financially sustainable and the quality of the care high. Factories in Phulki’s program have provided the space, start-up costs, and caretaker salaries, while mothers contribute toward food for the children and a small sum to cover operational costs.

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