Rana Plaza factory collapse
It’s that time of year again. The third anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse.
It is considered the deadliest garment factory accident in history, as well as the deadliest accidental structural failure in modern human history. I would dispute the words ‘accident’ and ‘accidental’ in the strict definition of the words; however, to use the term ‘accident waiting to happen’ would be correct.
The struggle and suffering of the injured workers and the families of the injured and deceased continues. Please spare a few minutes to read this press release from the Clean Clothes Campaign.
Bought any sand-washed or distressed denim lately? Nice and soft, eh?
Softer than the insides of the worker’s lungs.
Ever heard of silicosis? Oh, that’s an industrial illness of quarry-workers in days gone by, you are thinking. Nowadays, people doing that sort of work wear full respirators …don’t they?
Think again. Have a read of this BBC piece about the production of sand-washed denim.
The ethical supply of fabric and clothing
The supply chain of fabrics varies from the perfectly OK to the horrendous.
Think that buying organic cotton will protect workers from pesticide-related illnesses and halt land degradation? Look at the Omo River organic cotton project in Ethiopia. This is a piece from the organic textile industry’s own newsletter .
And you probably thought the Highland Clearances were mere history … sadly, no.
There are similar stories of land-grabs, forced evictions and worse, all over the world where corrupt government meets up with businesses hungry to make easy money, and where world powers are desperate for influence and access to resources at any cost.
Well, we can’t walk around naked – not in this climate, anyway. It was trying to snow here an hour ago! Fabrics are such an integral part of daily life, and many, many people are enabled to earn a decent living through the West’s consumerism.
It’s not all bad.
I have Bangladeshi friends who tell me that demand for garment factory workers has resulted in a rise in the status and ‘value’ of girls in many backwards rural communities, where – instead of being kept at home to do housework, then married off at the earliest opportunity – they are being encouraged to go to school and become literate because of the opportunities available for them to earn money doing factory work. They tell me that a caring family, or village with a responsible ‘headman’, will send the girls off together to the city as a group under the care of an older woman – often a youngish widow – unless there are already older sisters, cousins or aunts established there. A young woman can acquire some small savings, a modicum of independence and – most importantly – the ability to make at least some of her own decisions about marriage, healthcare and children, none of which would be available to her ‘back home’.
In a discussion about sewing on a (non-sewing) forum, I mentioned that there are still a few clothing manufacturers remaining in the UK. Someone made a rude and condemnatory remark about factory work in general and ‘sewing sweatshops’ in particular; an articulate response came immediately.
‘I worked as a machinist at the David Nieper factory in Derbyshire for several years until we moved away from the area.’ wrote a participant in the discussion. ‘I loved my job and it was by far the nicest place I’ve ever worked. I now work in local government with a good salary, but I’d go back to a job at that factory like a shot’.
As a reader of this blog, you probably stop and think more than many people do, about where clothes come from, how they are made and where fabrics and fibres come from. Stopping for a moment to think, asking a few pertinent questions here and there, keeping an eye open for things that worry you – or things that encourage you! – and finding out more if you get an opportunity – really, that is all that anyone with a normal ‘other’ life can do.
And if we all did it, it would start to improve things for our less-fortunate sisters., and images like the one at the top of this post might not be seen again.