Three Tips for Partnerships to Advance Workplace Health

September 11, 2018
  • Marat Yu

    Former Manager, BSR

Now more than ever, collaboration is the key ingredient to long-term solutions for systemic challenges. UN SDG 17 specifically calls for effective public-private and civil society partnerships to address systemic sustainability issues like increasing workers’ access to knowledge about their health or supporting women with information about menstrual hygiene and voluntary family planning.

That’s one reason why BSR partnered through HERproject with the USAID-funded Evidence Project, Meridian Group International, and Bayer Pharmaceuticals to create printable health education materials for the workplace. A baseline assessment in HERhealth factories conducted by the Evidence Project indicated that female factory workers generally reported low levels of reproductive health-related knowledge, including on menstrual hygiene, the fertility window, and reproductive health services.

To address this, factory nurses, welfare officers, and peer educators need handouts, posters, and other materials they can use to supplement their efforts to educate workers on key health issues. Such materials can be hard to come by for many factories, and when they are available, most educational materials are printed on glossy paper with many colors and photos, which makes them costly to print and unsustainable to use at volume in the long term. 

With input from HERproject, Meridian and Bayer adapted a set of Health Education Materials and an Implementation Guide for factories. These materials cover important health issues facing women and men workers, including voluntary family planning, healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, menstrual hygiene, engaged fathers and health, and handwashing.

The materials are available electronically in color and black and white (to save on printing costs) to be easily printed at the factory site. They come in three formats:

  • Mini-Posters, to be posted in public areas,
  • Handouts with more information for workers to take home, and
  • Supplemental materials to reinforce learning.

There is also a User’s Guide for Partner Organizations, including brands/retailers, NGOs, and other interested parties, which explains how the materials can be used in workplace programs throughout global supply chains. We have recently started using them in our HERhealth factories in Bangladesh and will be measuring their effectiveness.

While the time required to establish an impactful partnership is often considerable, we’ve seen that the investment is often justified by the results.

While the time required to establish an impactful partnership is often considerable, we’ve seen that the investment is often justified by the results. Here are a few things we’ve learned from this collaboration that you may find helpful in your efforts to partner for impact:

  1. Identify what each partner can uniquely contribute: When multiple partners are involved in a collaboration, each has a unique role to play. For example, here HERproject brings in industry insights, The Evidence Project and Meridian have vast technical expertise, and HERproject and implementing partners Change Associates and Mamata have in-depth knowledge of factory management and workers. In this particular endeavor, EngenderHealth Bangladesh played an instrumental role in engaging with the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and its technical committee to get their formal approval of the materials. The interconnected relationships between partners were very important to navigate; the collaborative approach enabled the partners to get formal buy-in from the Ministry of Health and major Bangladesh industry groups like the ILO/IFC Better Work program and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), including approval to include their logos on these materials.
  2. Context, context, context: Materials for workers won’t be effective if they are not developed and tested locally. Drafts were shared with factory workers, nurses, and management in Dhaka and Chittagong for their input, and this simple, low-tech solution was based on actual need. The materials are currently available in English and Bangla, and they will soon be made locally relevant and available in other languages for use in new locations.
  3. Deepen the partnership to scale: A long time horizon and resource plan will enable the expansion of the scope and allow the collaboration to reach scale. With the success of this initiative to date in Bangladesh, we are now planning to replicate and contextualize this work for other countries where HERproject operates, such as Ethiopia and Kenya.

Here at BSR, we know that partnership will be key to our ability to realize the UN SDGs. If you’re interested in learning how to work with us on the SDGs, including specifically to use partnerships (SDG 17) to support gender equality and empower all women and girls (SDG 5), please don’t hesitate to contact us.

The Evidence Project seeks to expand access to high quality voluntary family planning/reproductive health services worldwide through implementation science, including the strategic generation, translation, and use of new and existing evidence. The project is led by the Population Council in partnership with the Population Reference Bureau.

BSR's HERproject™ is a collaborative initiative that strives to empower low-income women working in global supply chains. Bringing together global brands, their suppliers, and local NGOs, HERproject™ drives impact for women and business via workplace-based interventions on health, financial inclusion, and gender equality. Since its inception in 2007, HERproject™ has worked in more than 800 workplaces across 14 countries and has increased the well-being, confidence, and economic potential of more than 800,000 women.

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