You may have heard about the tragedy in Bangladesh where an eight-story building collapsed last Wednesday. The building housed five garment factories that make clothing for American & European consumers and contained approximately 2500 workers. In addition, there was a bank and 300 shops. The bank employees were told to leave due to the unsafe conditions, and many of the shop workers were on strike, so they were spared. However, the garment laborers were not allowed to leave. They were told to continue working and that everything was fine.
The death toll has climbed to more than 400 people in this tragic accident.
What is as equally tragic as the deaths is the fact that this was preventable. Bangladesh's garment industry employs 4 million workers - most of who are women - and the industry regularly comes under scrutiny for lax safety. In fact, more than 700 people have died since 2005 due to other safety issues allowed to go unnoticed.
Think about it like this: Bangladesh has 4500 garment factories that make clothing for western companies, and is on track to surpass China within 7 years as the largest apparel manufacturer. That is an $18 billion dollar industry with subpar safety conditions, such as faulty electrical wiring, insufficient exits and sparse fire fighting equipment. How many more people will have to die before action is taken?
According to Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (a non- governmental organization founded by two former garment child workers to promote safer factories), about half of these garment factories do not meet legally required work safety standards. But there is some good news among all this tragedy - the ones that have improved working conditions have only done so under pressure from Western apparel makers.
This is where you come in.
In order to create a fundamental shift in the way companies do business, you, as a consumer, can shop responsibly and support fair trade. You have a choice. You can stand up for these women who struggle in unsafe conditions for little pay, by being a conscientious consumer. Our aim here at Buy The Change is to inspire you to help change the lives of women like those in Bangladesh and around the world. Best of all, it’s simple. All you have to do is change the way you shop. That’s it! Fair trade is an essential part of the solution. Fair trade principles ensure a good, living wage is given and that no exploitation occurs.
Let’s work together to help prevent tragedies like this.