I got up this morning and decided to put all my clothes, other than the top I had worn yesterday, in the wash. I realised too late that yesterday’s top was curry stained. This is when it really hits me what I’m doing! I didn’t have the option of finding another top and have had to cover the stain all day with a scarf! Oh dear!
Still, it’s a poor price to pay when I think about the plight of the garment workers who are employed to make clothing that is sold in the UK fashion industry, working in unsuitable conditions for poor wages.
Every morning, mile upon mile of women stream along Dhaka’s roadsides in Bangladesh, heading towards the city’s garment factories. In a country with more than 4,000 factories – which now relies on the ready-to-wear garment industry for 80% of its export income – women have become a powerful economic force.
According to the Guardian newspaper (5.11.2012), many women are contributing to the family and national income for the first time. At the same time, urbanisation is slowly changing women’s status as their economic role becomes more established.
Yet even as urbanisation has galvanised women’s march towards greater economic freedom, the equality and safety of Bangladesh’s new workers are still major issues. In the garment industry, women are an easy target for exploitation and discrimination. With an average age of 19, usually unmarried and with little education or training, many women enter urban employment with a comparative disadvantage in terms of pay, working conditions, the possibility of promotion and even getting paid for overtime. They earn 60% of the salary of male colleagues.
A 2011 report from War on Want on the Bangladesh garment industry found that 297 out of a total of 998 women workers interviewed reported unwanted sexual advances, while 290 said they had been touched inappropriately. A further 328 reported “threats of being forced to undress”, while almost half said they had been beaten and hit in the face by their supervisors.
Preventing the exploitation of workers like these women in Bangladesh wouldn’t be possible without the support of organisations like Labour behind the label and their partners. I am extremely grateful for the donations that have already been made and if you feel able to give a donation, no matter how small, then please go to my fundraising page at http://www.everydayhero.co.uk/julie_morton.
Many thanks for reading this.