A Caring Approach to Business
Bangladesh-based Square Toiletries Limited (STL) has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) by committing to provide affordable menstrual hygiene solutions to women employees at 300 factories by 2020. With this commitment, STL aims to improve the health, well-being and social and economic participation of 240,000 women while increasing factories’ productivity and reducing absenteeism by at least 30 percent.
Garment workers are among the prime contributors to Bangladesh’s economy; the majority of these workers are women. However, the average woman garment worker is absent for three to five days out of every month, which impacts family incomes as well as factory productivity. A lack of knowledge about women’s health keeps many women home during their menstrual periods. There is also a high rate of infection caused by poor feminine hygiene.
According to national statistics, just 14 percent of Bangladeshi women currently use sanitary napkins. In addition to the lack of information about feminine hygiene products, few factory workers can afford them.
Bangladesh’s leading manufacturer and marketer of personal care, home care and health and hygiene products, Square Toiletries Limited (STL) has focused on the care of its employees since its founding in 1988. The company pioneered sanitary napkin sales in Bangladesh and holds more than 70 percent of market share; it also provides free sanitary napkins to its women factory workers. In addition, STL has educated 3.5 million girls regarding menstrual hygiene management. As part of its inclusive “Go Bangladesh” initiative, the company has begun providing sanitary napkins to women employees in other companies’ factories as well.
STL’s specially designed ‘Femina’ napkins are available to factory staff at a highly discounted price. In addition to enhancing productivity, this product is transforming women’s lives by enabling them to be active throughout the entire month. And since many women are uncomfortable asking questions or discussing reproductive health issues face to face, STL provides information on women’s health and hygiene through a free hotline (08000888000) staffed by medical and psychology professionals.
Together, this free information service and the use of Femina sanitary napkins have reduced the rate of absenteeism in one STL factory by 85 percent.
Femina sanitary napkins are sold directly at its factories, but they are also distributed to pharmacies in garment-producing areas so that workers’ family members can access them. By 2020, the company has committed to making its Femina napkins – and associated knowledge – available to 240,000 women in areas where STL products are made.
In joining the BCtA, STL aims to help other factories to adopt similar inclusive initiatives and affect a genuine paradigm shift towards employee care. For STL’s management, this means upholding every aspect of women’s rights – including decent work, social empowerment and health. The “Go Bangladesh” initiative is helping to set high standards for manufacturers and catalyze a transformation towards business focused on improving the lives of its workforce.