Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF)
A pilot project introducing digital finance system for Empowering Domestic Workers
Supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)
Background: Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), established in 2002, works with a mission to promote human rights and good governance through a partnership with relevant stakeholders including duty bearers, to ensure the dignity and wellbeing of all people, especially the marginalized communities in Bangladesh. (www.manusherjonno.org).
Domestic Workers (DWs), whom majority are women and children, are a vulnerable group in Bangladesh mostly from low-income group and excluded from the provision of social protection and services. Poor rural families often send their children /women to live and work with well-off urban families to improve their financial conditions and to ensure a better future for their children. There are 10.5 million people employed as domestic workers in Bangladesh and 90% of them are women . There is no regulatory framework for the minimum age of employment, remuneration and working hours for these poor and vulnerable workers.
During COVID-19 pandemic, female domestic workers, especially those involved in part time employment (work for designated hours but stay in their own home) lost their work or received reduced salaries which had increased their vulnerabilities. On the other, the COVID-19 pandemic became a game changer for digital payment ecosystem in Bangladesh for contactless payments. Digital wage payments have helped workers in the formal sector, not only to have better control over their wages and access to alternative financial services, but also have ensured that they receive exact remuneration on time, which has assisted them in resolving/ reducing wage-related disputes.
Problem Analysis: Domestic work is a highly gender-specific niche of labor market in Bangladesh. Full time DWs are those who stay with the employers and part time workers live with their own arrangement. Employers of DWs are mostly women as traditionally and as per gender roles, women are in charge of domestic affairs at home. Women are compelled to choose this profession and migrate from rural to urban areas because of some push and pull factors such as acute poverty, to repay family debt, abandonment, divorce, domestic violence, lack of work in rural areas, more work opportunity in city or urban areas or in search of better income and so on. However, DWs are mostly unskilled and learn their trade on the job. Unfortunately, the workplace environment for DW’s is not always safe and secured for them. The whole recruitment process of domestic workers remains informal without any written service contract/ document. Moreover domestic work does not covered by the Bangladesh Labor Law 2013 which adds to their vulnerabilities. However, a Policy for ‘Protection of Domestic Workers and Welfare’ was adopted by Bangladesh government in 2015.
Rational: The ‘Shuchona’ Project is to introduce a Digital Finance System (DFS) for DWs which will empower them financially and will increase their self-esteem as dignified workers with more bargaining power. There will be a proof of their payment, and DWs will feel the formal recognition of their job through systematic payment. This will help to address non-payment or delayed payment, a common problem faced by domestic workers.
The irregularity of the present payment system deprives DWs of financial security as they cannot make long term financial plans. With digital payments their chances of making savings will be enhanced leading to more financial security. On the other hand, more and more women employers will open accounts with digital services which will also empower them. As surveys show, women employers also do not use the digital system and mostly remain outside the formal financial banking system.
The benefit of this project is two-fold. Not only the DW’s will be empowered through control of and access to their salaries, but also the female employers will learn to accept a formal way to pay salaries which will make them a part of the network of ‘Women using E commerce’. It will be a win-win situation for both parties.
Introducing DFS will help DWs to access and be included into the formal financial services, such as the ability to transfer money to whoever they want, have more control over their income, save money for future use and reduce the gender gap to some extent. The introduction of DFS system will ensure 100% of them to obtain national ID which will provide them a confidence to access entitlements and further will reduce the gender gap. Digitization will also give opportunity to access numerous services and has potential to increase access to a wider variety of income generating opportunities and to allow women to retain, control and increase their income.
In this connection the initiative will play a key role to motivate government to include DFS in the policy to protect vulnerable DWs.
Project Goal: Empowering female domestic workers through formal national financial digitization system.
=> Reduce gender gap between men and women on use of mobile services.
=> Encourage both the employers and employees to use mobile phone financial system
=> Develop capacity of domestic workers to manage their wages in a formal, accessible manner and empower them financially
=> Motivate the mobile financial providers to give special discounts to those using their services
=> Domestic female workers and female employers have access to and usage of the formal digital financial system.
=> Female domestic workers have control over their wages, have more bargaining power and ability to save.
=> Select employers of DWs from different professional sectors, like banks, NGOs and educational institutions.
=> Select DWs from greater Dhaka District considering urban, semi-urban and rural areas based on baseline data.
=> Issue-based training such as workers’ rights, women’s human rights, gender, labor law, and social security to be organized for DWs and employers separately.
=> Provide training/orientation to DWs and employees on DFS, financial literacy.
=> Strategic partnership with different networks (domestic worker network, women entrepreneurs and e-commerce forum) for creating enabling environment, and rapport building with workers and employers.
Innovations: This pilot project, ‘Shuchona’, will work with both the FDWs and their female employers, to focus in reducing the gender gap through sensitization and oriented on workers’ rights, gender, labor law, and different policies. The innovation will be a two-prong approach by engaging women from two different segments in terms of power, social and cultural and economic status, which will be brought under Mobile Financial Service (MFS).
Project Activities: Major activities include baseline survey and identification of DW’s and employers as project participants; database; mobilize and organize DWs and employers; awareness training/orientation on MFS, digital account opening, digitization process/ financial transaction (i.e. Bkash/mobile wallet, bank account), develop awareness materials (i.e. toolkit/IEC/BCC), partnership with MFS and mobile operator, strategic partnership with networks, social media campaign, incentives for DWs and reward/ incentivizing employers through innovative means, advocacy & networking.
Targeted DWs and employers’ analysis and categories:
=> Number of total female DWs 4000 (above 18 years of age)
=> Number of total female employers: 3500
Locations/Working Areas: The project will be implemented mostly in urban areas in Dhaka including slums, and semi urban areas near by Dhaka city.
Sub grantees of Shuchona project:
1. Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), Dhanmondi, Dhaka
2. Breaking the Silence (BTS), Mohammadpur, Dhaka
3. Nari Maitree (NM), Khilgaon, Dhaka
4. SOHAY, Bangla Sarak, Rayer Bazar, Dhaka
Project Duration: November 2021- April 2023
Donor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), USA
Total budget: $499,920.00
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