Money is actually starting to come in from writing and talking about the quest. Soon, I’ll have earned back half the expense of the trip, which is, you know, a good thing. But…an argument can be made that when the checks start rolling in the exploitation begins.
“Why don’t you leave her alone?” said my translator in Bangladesh, after I asked her to contact one of the garment workers for me again. “What does Arifa get out of this? You write a story and get paid, but what about her?”
I address this issue in a section of my book proposal titled, WHY I’M WRITING THIS BOOK:
I hope this book reaches the right reader with the right means, and the right ideas, so that he or she may take some action to make a difference in the lives of the world’s producers.
As long as there is poverty in the world, there will be cheap labor. Throughout the quest, I came across various international groups that were doing their part to eliminate poverty. Many of these groups are partners with the ONE Campaign to Make Poverty History. In honor of the garment workers who welcomed me into their homes and lives, I will donate 1% of my advance and royalties to the ONE campaign.
Is it exploitation? I like to think it’s not, but in a way it is. The university professor who introduced me to my translator had this to say when I put the question to him:
“A writer writes; that’s how he helps the world. That’s what he can contribute.”
That makes me feel a little better about myself. Anybody else have an opinion on this matter?
Other questions I’m asking myself:
One of my goals of this project is not to be preachy. Does supporting ONE take away from that? Is 1% – of whatever advance or royalties I’m lucky to get – laughable?
Brands source their clothes in developing countries; I source my stories there. Is there a difference?