Day 3: Country Session – Bangladesh

The Bangladesh country session was chaired by Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman (Country Director, IGC Bangladesh).

Pinar Keskin (Assistant Professor, Wellesley College) presentation on “Water Quality Awareness and Infant Health: The Role of Breastfeeding” is based on a study which investigates if mothers increase duration of breastfeeding in response to concerns about water quality (arsenic was found in tube wells in 1990). The paper compares children born before and after 2002  and finds evidence of increased breastfeeding – more months and more likely to be exclusive for the youngest children. The response is strongest for women who would have found it harder to switch to uncontaminated wells which suggests behavioral response. The authors conclude that the arsenic contamination information campaign in Bangladesh has led to a possible behavioural response to concerns about water quality.

Chris Woodruff (Professor of Economics, University of Warwick) presentation on “Managerial Capital and Productivity: Evidence from a Training Program in the Bangladeshi Garment Sector” is based on a research project which is investigating the huge gender imbalance in manager roles in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector in Bangladesh and if this imbalance hamper productivity and worker well-being. The RMG sector employs 4 million workers, 80% of whom are women. However women make up only 5-10 percent of the sewing section supervisors – and probably a lower percentage at higher management levels. The authors implemented a 6 week training program designed to train sewing machine operators to be line supervisors in the woven / light knit segments of the RMG sector. After the training, 85% of male and 56% of female trainees were promoted 10 months later. The analysis also shows that female trainees perform better in management simulations while their male counterparts perform slightly better in some aspects of productivity. Comments were received on the entrenched gender roles in the Bangladeshi community and it may possible to overcome such barriers through skills training only.

Comments were received that latrines adoption should also be encouraged not only for health and sanitation reasons but also due to potential threat to safety and security associated with open defecation especially for womenfolk. In addition greater mobilization of community level for latrine adoption can be done through rights based approach whereby open defecation is recognized to be uncomplimentary to one’s dignity and self-esteem. Information campaign on the direct health benefits from hygienic latrine could also enhance adoption.

By Farria Naeem, Country Economist, IGC Bangladesh