Going beyond fair trade: How Aarong artisans help finance each other’s healthcare
Aarong, one of BRAC’s social enterprises employs 65,000 artisans, 85 percent of whom are women. These artisans find an extensive support system through the Ayesha Abed Foundation (AAF), Aarong’s network of production hubs which are spread all over Bangladesh.
Committed to the guiding principles of fair trade, Aarong combines sustainable development with securing the rights of its artisans. It prioritises and operates well-being programmes alongside providing training for income generating activities. Some of the services it extends are legal assistance, hygiene awareness and annual health checkups.
However, at time artisans are faced with dire expenditures especially in cases hospitalisation. When an artisan or a family member of an artisan falls sick, it is common to find families delaying visiting hospitals due to fear of incurring large medical expenses, often making the situation worse or even fatal. To tackle such catastrophic health expenditures, a health security scheme (HSS) was established in 2016, whereby artisans and the AAF created a co-contributory healthcare fund for artisans and enlisted family members’ to payout in-patient treatment costs. Every month, the AAF contributes an amount for each artisan towards the health scheme. Each artisan also puts forward the same amount every month, ultimately generating a healthcare fund that is available for all artisans in times of need.
This scheme is comprised of a financing solution which ensures that all active artisans and their immediate family members will receive immediate fiscal aid using mobile money transfers if they are admitted into registered hospitals. Artisans are eligible for payouts for medical care including child birth and surgeries. Social safety net programmes such as the health security scheme are what make the AAF different from just any production centre and keep their development model sustainable.