Chemical Management & Detox Accelerator – new program launched by SMART

Managers from 4 factories joined SMART Myanmar’s new “Chemical Management & Detox Accelerator” program

ETP of one of the factories in the program.

On August 21st SMART Myanmar launched a 6 month advanced chemical management training program for garment and textile factories in Myanmar. The training is using a curriculum developed by the Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in the Industry (PSES) project. PSES is a joint project of the governments of Bangladesh and Germany, implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, which works on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

“GIZ has been immensely cooperative and practical. They have provided us with expertise and knowledge resources which PSES developed over more than 10 years time. With this program we aim to help Myanmar dodge the environmental destruction which so many of the world’s other garment and textile industries have faced” said Mr. Jacob A. Clere, SMART Myanmar Team Leader.

SMART Myanmar is the largest not-for-profit technical training initiative in Myanmar’s industrial sector. Funded by the European Union and co-funded by the German government, the project has trained hundreds of managers and dozens of garment factories on various social and environmental topics. The Chemical Management & Detox program is the newest addition to the project’s several on-site consultancy and training modules.
Mr. Omar Faruq, National Expert from GIZ PSES in Dhaka led the first 3 training sessions on August, 22nd, 23rd and 24th. Site visits were thereafter conducted at 3 of the participating factories to assess them on chemical inventory management, personal protective equipment use, compliance with Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals criteria (ZDHC) and in general evaluating how close they are to achieving international best practices.

Work with the participating factories will be continued for the next several months. In addition, Mr. Faruq is intensively training 3 of SMART’s 10 technical experts in a “training of trainers module” to transfer his expertise on chemical management to the Myanmar garment industry.

The chemical management program also meets the interest of European based multi-stake-holder initiatives, such as the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles. “We are very happy to be able to extend our factory improvement programs and train our staff in chemical management in cooperation with the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles.” said Ms. Julia Dittenhauser, sequa Project Director.

Chemical management expert Mr. Omar Faruq from Dhaka teaches one of SMART’s technical experts

Myanmar’s garment, textile and footwear industry has grown at an average rate of 6-7 new factories per month for the previous 4 years. The SMART project team has more frequently encountered chemical management issues as new wet processing facilities set-up in Myanmar. Ineffective regulatory oversight is creating a potentially dangerous situation for Myanmar’s rivers and watersheds, as some factories skirt the law. As well, chemical intensive washing, dyeing and printing factories present new occupational health and safety risks for employees as well as the local environment.

“During this training I can learn everything clearly… previously I saw many “danger” and “warning” signs in my factory, but I only understand one thing, which is about fire safety. This training is very useful for me and very valuable for me. I now think we have to practice how to properly manage the chemical inventory and labeling. Now, what we are doing is not enough. After this training I know so many new things which I have to do in my factory, especially about gloves, masks, chemical inventory management and storage.” – Statement from factory participant.

200 managers attend labour laws seminar hosted by SMART Myanmar and GIZ at UMFCCI

SMART Myanmar and the project Social and Labour Standards in the Textile and Garment Sector in Asia (SLSG), implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, which works on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) jointly organized a half-day seminar on labour laws most relevant for factories in Myanmar. Although initially aiming to host about 70 managers and staff, over 200 individuals attended to hear lawyers from Luther Law firm answer questions on existing labour laws in Myanmar.

“Attendance at the seminar far exceeded our expectations. I believe most factories are interested to comply with Myanmar’s existing labour laws, but it is often not simple. Sometimes laws are inconsistently applied and this can create immense confusion for factory managers. We hope today brought some added consistency and clarity.” said Mr. Jacob A. Clere, SMART Myanmar Team Leader.

SMART Myanmar is the largest not-for-profit technical training initiative in Myanmar’s industrial sector. Funded by the European Union and co-funded by the German government, the project has trained hundreds of managers and dozens of garment factories on various social and environmental topics. The legal seminar on Tuesday was designed to broaden the outreach of these efforts and engage a wider audience.

During Tuesday’s event SLSG sequa Project Manager, Ms. Su Tayar Lin presented the smartphone app Shwe Job – an app designed to educate workers in the Myanmar garment industry on labour laws and occupational safety & health in the factory. Since the app’s launch on May 1st Shwe Job has achieved over 3,300 downloads in the Google Play Store, an average of about 1,000 installs per month.

“We’re not promising a revolution, but I believe that by educating both workers and managers on the existing laws healthy industrial relations will be easier to achieve,” said Ms. Lin.

To download press releases in Myanmar and English please click below:
(English language) Press release, Labour laws training
(Myanmar language) Press release, Labour laws training

Training local consultancy service providers for the garment industry

Following on the roadmap of SMART Myanmar and Business Innovation Facility (BIF) cooperation, in March 2017 senior technical expert Nancy Feng of SMART Myanmar coached eight consultants from three different Myanmar consultancy firms to further enhance their capacities on HR management in garment factories. The five days coaching consisted of the following parts:

• One day classroom training on performance appraisal system aims at raising their awareness on the importance of performance appraisal, broaden their understanding and enhance the in-depth knowledge on the structure, different methods and practices in the garment factories.

• Four days in-factory coaching to give the consultants first-hand experience to apply knowledge learned from the class room training in the real factory situation. The assessment was led by Ms. Feng who explained to the consultants to help them improve their understanding of common issues and good practices of HR general management, employee retention, working hours and salary systems. As one practical task, the consultants were taught how to interview selected production line workers to learn about good interview methods and improve their communications as well as information collection skills. This kind of intervention creates clear links between theoretical knowledge and real life applications.

These actions were further followed up with more practical work in April. SMART’s technical experts Ms. May Mi Kyaw and Ms. Haymar Oo guided the eight consultants in how to conduct factory assessments, in particular checking HR documents and checking on-site workplace safety & health conditions.

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:

Download the Shwe Job app in the Google Play Store (Android phones only):

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.

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.

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.

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)

SMART technical experts are now accredited to teach ILO’s SCORE program

Starting in 2015, SMART Myanmar and the International Labour Organization partnered together to develop the SCORE program for Myanmar’s garment industry. (SCORE = Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises).

SCORE is a globally recognized program run by the ILO and is designed to boost productivity and workplace conditions in SMEs. SMART Myanmar’s 8 local technical experts received coaching from a senior international expert contracted by the ILO to develop this approach in Myanmar. SMART Myanmar has thereafter piloted the program successfully within 4 garment factories in 2016.

Based on this quick initial success, SMART Myanmar has further fine-tuned the training module to complement the project’s other social compliance programs. Now, the project is running:

The SMART Social Compliance Academy™ – A factory improvement program designed for medium-to-large factories.
The SCORE program by SMART Myanmar – A globally recognized program methodology, suitable for small factories and further adapted by SMART Myanmar to cater to garment & footwear factories.
The SMART Energy Reduction Audit program – An innovative approach to energy reduction consultancy in garment factories – combination of coaching and mechanical, staff & building assessment.

SCORE induction ceremony

To honor the trainers and factories who participated in developing SCORE in Myanmar, SMART Myanmar and the ILO organized a small induction ceremony. Factories interested in applying for the next round of SCORE trainings were invited to learn about the program. In total, over 3 dozen managers and factory owners gathered for this event.

SMART Myanmar anticipates to train another 4 factories using the SCORE program starting in August. Applications are open until July 29th. Further details can be found here:

SMART SCORE flyer (Myanmar language)
SMART SCORE flyer (English)