The entire time I’ve been thinking and planning this quest, I’ve only thought about the garment factories and not the production of the textiles from which they are sewn.
The city of Narsingdi is Bangladesh’s cloth capital. Rickshaws are heaped with colorful cloth and trucks carry so much that they won’t fit under power lines. I was welcomed with open arms, cookies, and tea to 3 separate plants. I could ask any questions I wanted and take any photograph, even if it was of underage kids working (Bangladesh requires a minimum age of 18). I explained my quest to each of the owners and they were more than happy to walk me through their factories.
They were all sweatshops, possibly in the social connotation of the word, but mostly they were just hot and sweaty. Half naked men manned the mechanical looms making sure all of the material was flowing properly. They were all skinny.
The coloring factory was the sweatiest of all the shops. Huge worm-like furnaces with glowing red mouths sucked in long sheets of cloth. It was miserably hot.
Kids worked in each factory.
Poor kids all over Bangladesh work hard. They beg in the middle of the road, or work at a dark hole-in-the-wall welding shop in Old Dhaka, or walk through traffic jams selling small bags of popcorn, or do hundreds of other things to make money.
Good or bad, ethical or unethical, the textile industry is no different than the rest of Bangladesh.