SMART Myanmar launches “Shwe Job” smartphone app on International Workers’ Day

With support of the European Union and GIZ, SMART Myanmar has developed an educational smartphone app for industrial workers in Myanmar called “Shwe Job”. On International Workers’ Day, May 1st, SMART Myanmar celebrated the public launch of this app in the Google Play Store with local civil society organization, Thone Pann Hla, at the Sunday Café II in Hlaing Thar Yar Township. Approximately 120 garment workers joined the event.

Factory workers relax at the Sunday Cafe II during the launch event for Shwe Job on May 1st.

About Shwe Job:

Shwe Job is an app created by SMART Myanmar to teach garment factory workers about good practices for occupational safety & health in the factory and to increase awareness and knowledge of the existing labour laws in Myanmar. This app uses a combination of stories, illustrations and voiceovers.
Shwe Job references Myanmar’s existing labour laws whenever possible, but also supplements in additional recommendations on occupational safety & health based on international standards and best practices. SMART Myanmar’s goal in creating this app is to create a useful and practical educational tool. The app is not meant to be comprehensive or authoritative, but rather is designed to teach and increase knowledge in a format which is approachable to factory workers.
Shwe Job also includes a Salary Calculator – another tool for workers to understand how their monthly salary is calculated.

“When we started working with Myanmar’s garment workers fewer than 1% owned smart phones. Now, over 90% do. This is an amazing shift in just 4 years. It is this incredible change that prompted us to create a teaching tool which can make full use of the latest and most relevant technologies.” – SMART Myanmar Team Leader Jacob A. Clere.

About SMART Myanmar:

SMART Myanmar is a project funded by the European Union and has been conducting training and capacity building programs on social and environmental issues with garment factories in Myanmar since 2013. The project actively supports and promotes sustainable consumption and production (SCP) of garments “Made in Myanmar” – a concept with emphasis on resource efficiency and social responsibility.

For more photos:
https://www.facebook.com/smartmyanmarproject

Download the Shwe Job app in the Google Play Store (Android phones only):
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.smart.myanmar.app&hl=en

Conclusion of ‘green banker’ training in cooperation with Myanmar Banks Association

During November 2016 SMART Myanmar’s implementing partner ADFIAP (The Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific) conducted their final week of training for ‘green bankers’. This was the conclusion of a 3-week training program for a dedicated selection of bankers from nearly every locally owned bank in Myanmar.

SMART Myanmar managed to provide this green banker training program to managers and loan officers from 28 banks, with a total of 39 bankers participating in the program. The instruction was designed in a classroom format, but also included interactive participatory sections wherein participants had to present cases based on practical scenarios. As a final test, training participants were various case studies and asked to design project proposals. This was an extremely useful practice for them to learn how to appraise green loans, and is also relevant for any project-based loan appraisal.

In Myanmar most banks rely on collateral-based lending and this kind of project-based lending structure is still fairly new. As such, the financial experts from ADFIAP were pleased to educate local bank staff on the advantages of risk evaluation and project-based lending.

Now that the first year of SMART’s “Green Finance Training Program” has concluded its first year, those certified as “Green Bankers” are envisioned to become champions for green finance within their respective banks. During 2017 ADFIAP will conduct further training with local SMEs on applying for loans. This will be followed by a matchmaking pilot, during which a small selection of companies with suitable green projects will be presented to some of the graduates of the green banking program. Both sides will receive technical advisory support from ADFIAP on the merits of applying for and granting loans based on the specific situations.

Bigger picture

SMART Myanmar’s green finance initiative is designed to give SMEs access to finance from banks to fund green investments. The training interventions address the gaps in technical, financial and environmental capacities of loan officers to confidently lend to green projects under a risk-mitigated environment, which is identified as one of the major deterrents in green project financing.

Sustainable Public Procurement of garments & textiles in Myanmar

Background

SMART Myanmar is a 2.8 million euros project funded by the EU’s SWITCH Asia programme with the aim to advance social and environmental improvements in Myanmar’s garment industry. One component of the project foresees to assess purchasing practices of garments & textiles by public institutions in Myanmar and to initiate dialogue between public and private sector representatives to discuss the current public procurement set-up and future adaptations needed to conduct public procurement in a more sustainable way. Sustainable public procurement (SPP) has many environmental, social and economic benefits and can be a powerful approach towards ensuring sustainable growth within a country.

SMART’s activities in 2016 on SPP in Myanmar

Since March 2016, SMART’s project staff, with the support of the procurement expert from Made-by (Netherlands organization and one of the implementing partners of SMART) have been meeting relevant ministries and the responsible personnel to assess procurement practices and policies, with emphasis on sustainability criteria. No sustainability criteria were found in the current public procurement procedures and practices, but a strong interest has been observed. What is needed is strong policy guidance from the government and technical support, referring to adequate training of the procurement personnel. Currently, the Ministry of Planning and Finance is drafting a procurement law with the help of the World Bank. Once this law is promulgated it will be easier for the government to adopt and apply sustainability criteria.

On the 27th of September, 2016 SMART Myanmar organized an inter-ministerial dialogue in Nay Pyi Taw, hosted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation. 35 representatives from 15 ministries attended. The purpose of the dialogue was to raise awareness on best practices and benefits of SPP, to discuss the current status of procurement procedures at the ministries and to exchange views on practical challenges and potential solutions.

A second public-private dialogue was organized in Yangon in November to bring together company representatives from the garment industry and representatives from selected ministries. The private sector representatives included several MGMA members, in particular two that have produced garments for public sector tenders. The objective of this public-private dialogue was to exchange perspectives and build-up knowledge on SPP for manufacturers and public procurers.

Both of these events were also undertaken to inform SMART in developing practical recommendations for the Myanmar government on integrating sustainability criteria into public procurement procedures in future.

These events were managed by Dr. Christina Raab, Principal Consultant from Made-By and supported by Su Tayar Lin and Zar Chi Oo from the project office. SMART was pleased that both workshops involved highly interactive discussions and provided an open and trustful platform for exchange of views.

In mid 2017 SMART Myanmar will publish a report on the project’s findings based on independent research and the outcomes of these events.

Boosting business success of SMEs in garment industry with global recognized SCORE method

SMART Myanmar co-operated with the ILO and Kaizen Institute to develop the SCORE program for garment industries in late 2015 and early 2016. SMART Myanmar is presently the only accredited locally based service provider to teach the ILO’s SCORE program for companies in the garment, footwear and accessories manufacturing industries.

In addition to the 3 factories finishing SCORE II, 10 new factories joined the certificate ceremony to learn about SCORE III.

SCORE is a global program developed by the ILO and focuses on boosting company performance through workplace cooperation. It is designed with five modules: Workplace cooperation, managing continuous improvement, productivity through cleaner & leaner production, workforce management for business success and safety & health at work.

Starting in September 2016, SMART Myanmar conducted a second SCORE program round with three locally owned garment factories: Nine Two Nine, Htike Htike and MP Garment. Over 6 months these factories received three days of classroom training. A half-dozen of SMART Myanmar’s ILO SCORE certified trainers delivered this “SCORE II” Program, during both classroom trainings and on-site coaching with the EITs (EIT=Enterprise Improvement Teams: a key part of the SCORE method for achieving common goals).

U Aung Ko Ko Oo shares his positive experience in SCORE II.

In February 2017, SMART Myanmar celebrated the successful participation of these companies in the program with certificates of recognition and promoted the SCORE III program for new factories. SCORE III will continue the success of the 6 month on-site training program approach.

During the ceremony, SMART Myanmar’s Team Leader, Jacob Clere, introduced the SMART and the structure of the SCORE program. Two of SMART’s ILO certified SCORE trainers presented details on modules and U Aung Ko Ko Oo, Operations Manager from MP Garment shared his knowledge and experience during the SCORE II program. He said, “Middle management staff like me often get caught between workers and owners but since we started the SCORE program, that problem is gone. With the EIT team, we are now better aware of improper procedures regarding with labor rights, management issues and health and safety issues”. He also encouraged other companies to join the SCORE program, which can be very beneficial to SME factories to help them become competitive & responsible companies.

SMART is currently recruiting new factories for SCORE III, and has capped the maximum company size for this program at 400 employees. Companies larger than this are encouraged to consider the SMART Social Compliance Academy™, a similar project program designed for medium and large garment factories.

SMART Team Leader Jacob Clere presents a certificate of recognition to Nine Two Nine for making improvements during SCORE II.

SMART Myanmar hosts Yangon Chief Minister & EU Ambassador

SMART Myanmar was honored to be requested by Chief Minister of the Yangon Region, U Phyo Min Thein, to facilitate visits to the factories whom the project has worked with. Through SMART Myanmar, the EU supports Myanmar’s garment industry to increase its competitiveness, environmental protection standards and social responsibility – in order to make the sure the label “Made in Myanmar” stands for sustainable production and fair working conditions.
Out of 23 factories that have completed the intense factory improvement program, the SMART Social Compliance Academy™, SMART decided to organize tours of one locally factory and one JV factory, to demonstrate the variety of production, the opportunities and the challenges which the industry faces.

Myanmar Synergy was the first factory of the two that were visited by the Chief Minister on 11th January 2017. This factory is a joint investment from Korea and Myanmar, with exports to Europe, Japan and Korea. Myanmar Synergy has worked with SMART Myanmar and several of the project’s programs since 2014 and achieved a milestone by expanding its exports to the European market in 2015/16. The second visited factory was Shweyi Zabe garments from Shwe Pyi Thar, a fully locally owned factory, which also started working with European brands after participating in SMART’s social compliance program. Both the local factory and the JV factory presented and explained the challenges they face as manufacturers, difficulties in improving the industrial zones and governance procedures in the industrial zones in general.

The SMART team also shared their insights regarding the limitations of industrial municipal waste disposal services in areas such as waste collection and categorization of the waste effectively (eg: how/where to dispose of solid waste and hazardous wastes in a safe manner).

Factory owner Ms. Aye Aye Han guides the EU Ambassador and Yangon Chief Minister on a tour of her company.

The EU Ambassador and Yangon Chief Minister both offered remarks agreeing to continue to promote the continued responsible and sustainable development of Yangon’s industrial zones.

Expanding the impact of HR and social compliance system improvements for the garment industry in Myanmar

Up to now SMART Myanmar has rolled out several rounds of the SMART Social Compliance Academy™ which have covered more than 24 garment factories to improve their awareness and practices on social compliance performance. In addition, free-of-charge HR management classroom trainings have been delivered for garment factories and simultaneously target the improvement of their HR management systems. In the whole garment industry a strong demand of hundreds of garment factories has been observed and the SMART Myanmar team understands that there is much more to do. Therefore, in January 2017 SMART Myanmar started a cooperative initiative with BIF (Business Innovation Facility) to transfer knowledge and experiences of why and how to improve HR management practices and social compliance system to Myanmar consultancy firms, to build up their capacities to offer these services to the growing garment industry in Myanmar. This cooperation is planned for several months and includes classroom trainings, in-factory coaching and co-delivery of factory assessments on different aspects of HR and social compliance to ensure a gradual and effective transfer. SMART Myanmar will also support in terms of advising on service package design, KPI development, impact assessment, etc.

In January and February 2017 SMART’s senior technical expert, Nancy Feng, and technical experts Hay Mar Oo, Hsu Yin Win, May Mi Kyaw and Ye Hein Htet delivered 7 days of classroom trainings to to 11 consultants from three Myanmar consultancy firms that were selected to participate in the program. These trainings aim at enhancing the participants’ understanding and knowledge on HR basic functions, retention, system establishment, communication, and social compliance both theoretically and practically. Trainings on other topics and practical, on-site coaching will take place in the coming months.

One of SMART’s technical experts teaching local consultants about social compliance in the garment industry.

2016: Year in review

SMART Myanmar’s 2nd project phase started in January, 2016. During the course of the year the project was pleased to see increased interest from factories in the project’s core training programs. In particular, SMART’s nine person technical team delivered:

• 14 SMART Social Compliance Academies (long duration on-site program for medium and large sized factories)
• 7 SCORE programs (long duration on-site program for smaller factories)
• 3 HR Management Labs (3 days workshop on garment factory HR topics)
• 10 SMART Energy Efficiency Assessments (on site program featuring an AS/NZ 3598.2 energy audit and energy reduction report)

In addition to these factory programs, SMART Myanmar hosted numerous special training events and workshops, in particular, seminars on ZDHC and wet processing with partner Made-by, supporting the MGMA’s social compliance awards dinner and special training modules on workplace communications, occupational health and safety and environmental management.

Altogether, SMART Myanmar had approximately 150 garment factories participate in on-site training modules, workshops or attend events related to environmental management and workplace safety and health.

“Especially salary and attendance systems were improved during the SMART Social Compliance Academy™. We hope that can improve the workers’ satisfaction. We can avoid staff turnover and strikes. Regarding child labor prevention and young worker protection, we can fully prevent child labor now and hope to go this way in the future. We have some weaknesses in the field of health and safety. We need to provide training for the workers to raise their awareness on health and safety. We really want them to work in a good situation because the more improvements on their performance, the more profits for our business, this is the benefit for both sides.” Factory owner from one of SMART’s 2016 academies.

Beyond the factory programs, SMART’s implementing partners ADFIAP and Made-by were able to conduct 3 weeks of financial services trainings with managers from two dozen local banks, and assess the environmental sustainability criteria within public procurement procedures in Myanmar. Implementing partner AVE was able to begin more intensive capacity building with the project’s local partner, the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association.

All major targets were achieved in 2016 and the project team is powering forward into 2017 with higher goals.

Sewer at a factory in Yangon.

Gender equality and empowerment of women

In many countries in South and South East Asia the textile and clothing sector is contributing substantially to local economic development. This also applies to Myanmar: it constitutes an important industry with roughly 430 factories, employing around 340,000 people. It is expected that by 2018 the number of garment factories in Myanmar will increase to nearly 600 and the number of employees will rise to approach 600,000.

Women garment workers outside the Sunday Cafe 2 in Hlaing Thayar Township.

Over 90 percent of employees in the textile and clothing industry are young women, most typically between 16 and 27 years old. Local NGOs observe that many women stay in the factory until their first pregnancy and then return into their home villages. Since the poverty rate amounts to 37.5 percent in Myanmar, the income of the seamstresses is badly needed to support their families. Moreover, working in the garment factories is often the only possibility for young women from the rural regions in Myanmar to earn money and to emancipate them economically. This chance, however, also harbours great risks, because most often the women do not know their what legal rights are and are thus at risk of exploitation and debt. A significant number of garment workers are in debt because they send more money home to their families than they can rightfully afford.

In order to improve labour conditions in this sector, working women and men have to be encouraged to know and claim their rights. This purpose is supported by the regional project “Labour and Social Standards in the Textile and Clothing Sector in Asia”, which is implemented by the GIZ and commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The project is active in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Pakistan and is working together with China. In Myanmar, this project cooperates closely with SMART Myanmar.

Because the garment industry in Myanmar has a considerable potential for growth, job opportunities for hundreds of thousands of young women can be created. This, in turn, can contribute to their financial independence, if their work opportunities are compliant with labour and social standards.

Bangladesh saw a similar development in the past as the garment industry grew rapidly for decades. However, sewers were sometimes exploited and had no possibility to advocate for their rights. It took years until the first initiatives for the support of garment workers emerged. One of several initiatives was the “cafés for women”, in which the women workers are informed about their rights and are supported to claim them. The experiences made in Bangladesh with these issues now serve to educate and inform the actions being undertaken in Myanmar. Two study missions have already been organized via cooperative efforts of the EU funded SMART Myanmar project, GIZ and the C&A Foundation, to exchange experience and knowhow between women’s cafes in Bangladesh and the “Sunday Cafés” in Myanmar.

The Sunday Cafe 1 and Sunday Café 2 are run by the local civil society organization, Thone Pann Hla. The 2nd location opened in Hlaing Thayar Township, Yangon in January 2017. Garment workers meet up weekly at both locations with their friends on their day off to read books, relax and learn more about their rights through trainings, games and conversations among themselves.

ToR for legal advisory service

In partnership with Thone Pann Hla, SMART Myanmar and GIZ are launching a legal advisory service for garment sector workers in Hlaing Thayar township.

We encourage any interested law firms to submit proposals according to the ‘terms of reference’:

Terms of Reference for new legal advisory service for garment workers

sewing-light-reduced-size

SMART Myanmar coordinates exchange between Myanmar & Bangladesh women garment workers

Seven delegates, led by the European Union funded SMART Myanmar project, returned to Yangon today following a study mission in Dhaka, Bangladesh where the group met with women’s community organizations and garment industry affiliates. The trip was organized in cooperation with Thone Pann Hla, a civil society organization of women garment workers in Yangon. The Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, SMART Myanmar’s local partner, facilitated the exchange, which was funded by the C&A Foundation.

Women from Myanmar and Bangladesh exchanged ideas and approaches on how to educate and support garment workers on knowing claiming their rights and understanding their responsibilities.
Women from Myanmar and Bangladesh exchanged ideas and approaches on how to educate and support garment workers on knowing claiming their rights and understanding their responsibilities.

The main objective of the study mission was for the group to visit women’s centres in Dhaka, commonly called “women’s cafes” to share experience and best practices on their outreach and educational programmes for garment workers. SMART Myanmar and Thone Pann Hla are currently in the process of up-scaling Thone Pann Hla’s “Sunday Cafe” – a women’s cafe in Yangon which has been operating since early 2014. Thone Pann Hla seeks to expand their approach to provide educational services and community support for a greater number of garment employees.

Joining the exchange trip were two garment factory employees, the manager of Yangon’s Sunday Cafe and Ms. Than Dar Ko, the director of Thone Pann Hla. Three delegates from SMART Myanmar also joined, led by Ms. Su Tayar Lin, SMART Myanmar Project Manager.

In Dhaka, the group met with representatives of the Awaj Foundation, an organization that is operating more than half a dozen women’s cafes in Bangladesh. Awaj Foundation hosted the study delegation and took them to three women’s cafe locations and also provided opportunities to meet with a variety of support groups, such as legal advisors and medical support officers for the cafes. During the trip the group also took the time to tour a garment factory in Gazipur on the outskirts of Dhaka. The SMART staff met with various representatives of the Garment and Textile program called “Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in the Industry”, PSES, a program implemented by GIZ Bangladesh. The exchange of know how and experiences on Women Cafes and Compliance Awards was very useful for future implementation of these activities because SMART can learn from the GIZ experiences.

Press release English (Myanmar/Bangladesh exchange)

Myanmar language press release (Myanmar/Bangladesh exchange)