Reproductive health care for female workers: More than just a corporate social responsibility

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After 3 years of implementation, the Project on ‘Advancing Social and Economic Development of Female Migrant Workers through Development and Implementation of Gender-sensitive Initiatives’ in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces, is now complete.
This study, executed by Marie Stopes Vietnam (MSV) from 2013 through 2015 and funded by the European Union (EU), brought up practical benefits to female workers in factories in Binh Duong and Dong Nai.
 Worker register for health check at mobile clinics
Project practicality:
Research in 2013 at supply factories in Binh Duong and Dong Nai showed that among 100,000 female migrant workers, many of who have poor knowledge, attitude, and practice of reproductive health protection, 41.9% responded that they were afraid/very afraid to use contraceptive methods and 28.6% had never attended any gynecological examinations or received any reproductive health care services. The majority of clinics at factories do not supply reproductive health care services, and until recently Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) consisted only of the Vietnam's Labor Law and brand requirements and nothing more.
The goal of the project was to improve policies and guidance in the workplace and to enhance social and economic protections for females, as well as improve health and elevate their status as women participating in the economic development of both Binh Duong and Dong Nai. To accomplish these goals, MSI and their partners carried out the following activities: Training courses to improve awareness, and support groups and factories with the goal of integrating current CSR practices with gender sensitive focus while coordinating with local authorities and others to promote the implementation of the drafted policies; supporting the groups to design suitable reproductive health care programs at the factories; supplying reproductive health services at the work places; improving awareness of reproductive health care and rights; and lastly delivering services that support both male and female workers through a factory peer education program.
EU-CSR Project and Figures
Engaging 9 factories in Binh Duong and Dong Nai with over 100,000 female workers.  In 3 years (2013 – 2015), over 500,000 cases of workers benefited directly and indirectly from the project; 279 peer educators and 120 medical staff were trained on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) counseling; Over 5,000 workers were offered discounts on SRH. The percentage of out-of-pocket healthcare payments of by female migrant workers  reduced to 26%.
The project has in many ways satisfied the needs of sexual and reproductive health care of the workers while improving health services of factory clinics. This not only helped to ensure a healthy labor force and maintain employee commitment in the factories, but also contributed to labor capacity and brand-name prestige of the corporations and firms.
According to Truong Thi Bich Hanh, the Deputy Chairwoman of Binh Duong Provincial Labor Union, the CSR project of MSV is practical as it directly helps workers to improve awareness and change their behaviors with more knowledge about reproductive health care, gender equality, and promotion of CSR for workers in general and female workers in particular.
Activities which bring benefit to all females workers
Under the project, some factories in Binh Duong and Dong Nai of Foster, King Maker, Esprinta, Shyang Hung Chen, Pou Sung, Pou Chen, and Viet Vinh have coordinated with MSV to organize mobile clinics at the factory and health fair days with entertainment and education of sexual and reproductive health and gender issues. Workers are offered health services during their factory hours with timely treatments and consultations by doctors. In addition, mobile clinics save time and reduce cost of traveling while simultaneously maintaining the high quality of the visits. The factory clinics have gradually won the trust of the workers. Most recently, 65% of workers rated the service quality of factory clinics as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ compared to a rate of 35% at the beginning of the project.
Communication session for workers on reproductive contraceptive methods
The labor population in factories are young, single migrant workers that are away from home. Thus, they often need peer support to find answers to their problems. For the reason, the project trained 279 peer educators (PE’s) in 9 participating factories. The training they receive includes topics such as Reproductive Health, Communication Skills, Equality Law, and Labor Law related to women's rights. Peer educators are committed to improving awareness about reproductive health and do this either in large groups or small groups or 1:1 (peer-to-peer). Reproductive health and contraceptive methods are the most popular topics.
Brock Chang, the CSR Manager of Pou Chen said: “In 3 years, the project has helped us sustain and maintain the activities, particularly the creation of a team of 30 peer educators and doctors at the clinics trained by MSV experts. The workers are satisfied with what we have achieved. The company will surely continue with such activities.”
Evaluating the project, Huynh Cao Hai, the Deputy Director of Dong Nai Provincial Department of Health, said: “The project of MSV has brought direct benefits to workers, especially female workers at factories in Dong Nai province. I think that the project has changed the awareness of the corporations and workers on the rights of female workers while also enhancing the management and supervision of authorities in corporations and factories.”

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