I was 28. I got engaged and bought a home and left the country to meet the people who made my clothes. I had a few small assignments that would pay me hundreds of dollars for three-months of reporting that would cost me thousands.
Nari was 25. She was living with 7 other young women in a room that was maybe 100 square feet. She worked in a garment factory making Levi’s. She paid a $50 bribe to get her job, which paid her $50 per month. She sent half of her money home to support her family in her village. She wasn’t shy.
Ai was 24 and shy. She was one of Nari’s 7 roommates. She missed working in the fields at…
One moment Reshma Begum was sewing. The next, she was falling from her station on the second floor into the basement of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Savar, Bangladesh.
She lost consciousness. She awoke to cries of help that gradually silenced. Her clothes were shredded, everything was dark, and her hair was stuck in the rubble. She ripped her hair free and scavenged the dark crevices on her hands and knees finding four crackers, a small bottle of water, and the occasional puddle to quench her thirst. She probed her surroundings with a pipe for pockets of air.
This was her life. This was her living for seventeen days.
Was Reshma’s situation an unfortunate end to an individual pursuing real opportunity…
The worst thing isn’t that we live in a world where child labor exists, it’s that we live in a world where mothers and fathers who love their children send their kids off to work for the day because they have to. They have to rely on their income.
Three years ago the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,134 people and injuring more than 2,500 more.
Sometimes when I deliver the information above in a lecture I say,”killed 1,134 workers.” As if a worker is a cog without a family, friends, and a complex life just like ours. I cringe at the word workers passing my lips. It’s vital that we all remember that people make our things.
Sons. Daughters. Fathers. Mothers. Aunts. Uncles. Best friends. These are the lives that were snuffed out by the unregulated manic growth of the Bangladeshi garment industry trying to feed consumers ever-hungry for cheaper prices and throwaway fashions.
Today marks three years since the disaster, and I hope you’ll join me in doing…
The common questions asked when we talk about how to have a fair supply chain include: What laws can governments pass to protect workers? What kind of inspections should brands do? What are the responsibilities of factories, retailers, and consumers?
But one very important question is left out: How do all of the stakeholders work to empower the laborers themselves to have a voice?
One of the most positive answer to that solution is LaborLink. LaborLink was started by Good World Solutions, “a non-profit social enterprise with a vision that every worker should have a free and anonymous channel to report directly to decision-makers about their working conditions, opinions and needs.” That channel is something most farmers and factory workers have already, they’re mobile phone.
Most folks think shopping for clothing with your ethics is a privilege that few can afford. I’ve been writing about being an ethical and engaged consumer since I traveled around the world to meet the people who made my clothes.
Since writing Where Am I Wearing? I encouraged folks to wear one thing a day they knew was produced in a way that treated people and planet fairly. I reach a lot of college students and thought that a whole outfit in such clothes would be unaffordable.
That’s what I thought . . . until today.
Today, I decided to do a little online shopping experiment: I…