Dalene and Paul Heck of Hecktic Travels we’re traveling in Phnom Penh when they witnessed a protest by garment workers. Police met the protestors with riot shields, rubber bullets, and then actual bullets. Dalene wrote about the protest and how she now vows to change as a consumer.
Here’s her powerful post-protest reflection:
Their plight is one common to this part of the world – one of being overworked in deplorable and unsafe garment factories while earning less than the minimum wage. The workers from this particular factory serve H&M, the Gap, and other global brands. They have already been protesting for months to no avail.
“We are embarrassed that you have seen this,” said those Cambodians we talked to about it later.
They were embarrassed? I was embarrassed – sitting there in my cheap H&M pants, supporting the discount retailer that these protestors were actually rallying against. I was a part of the problem. I was part of the reason why an innocent woman lost her life via a stray bullet.
It’s easy for us to forget, while on the other side of the world, that a simple decision of where we buy our cheap clothes causes ripples somewhere else. Or in this case, brutal, terrifying waves. Not only of crippling poverty, but of a desperate voice met by tyrannical violence.
This protest, which resulted in devastating injuries and death, barely made the news around the world. And had I not seen it for my own eyes, I might have never given this issue a second thought.
But now I must.”