What Can We Learn From the Tragedy in Bangladesh?

(Mini Disclaimer - This blog was supposed to be posted closer to when the tragedy in Bangladesh happened, but I was not able to publish it due to my accident. Some facts have been updated, story also updated)

Debris. Rubble. Dangling concrete pillars. Blood. Five garment factories that produce clothing were operating in six out of the eight floors.

Have we already forgotten?

Transient

This past weekend I had the chance to talk with Syeed, my director in Bangladesh. He told me a lot of stories about people that survived and people that didn't. They all touched my heart but I wanted to share one in particular with you. He told me about one woman who lost her job as a result of the collapse. She wasn't going to receive a paycheck for her work in April. She didn't know how she was going to pay her landlord rent. All she had to eat was salt and rice.... After Syeed told me this story, I thought, "What if that was me? What would I do?" ... What would YOU do if you were in her shoes? It's a frightening thought.

You all have heard about this tragedy. But I'd like to remind you of a few facts.

  • Over 1000 people were killed and over 2,000 were injured in the Rana Plaza tragedy located in Savar, a town close to Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.
  • Approximately $23 billion in exports from Bangladesh were produced, mostly going to the United States
  • Wages for workers are $37/month - only amidst violent protests in 2010 for workers wages. Previously workers wages were $21/month
  • The vice chairman of the government-run Export Promotion Bureau has said, " Bangladesh has about 5,000 garment factories employing about 3.6 million workers, 80% of them are women. They are submissive, adaptable and trainable. They can understand everything very quickly, and these workers are abundantly available wherever you want to set up your factory."

*Facts courtesy of an Ethical Fashion Forum article

Short term gains and long term losses - Stores such as Walmart and H&M are able to provide us with clothing that is a 'deal or a steal' because the labor provided to these garment workers are next to nothing. If you pay $10 for a shirt, how much do you think the laborer gets? High profit in the short term does not payoff in the long run if building and ethical codes are not followed. This tragic example proves this point. Profits are now being spent on doing what should have been done before manufacturing started: reviewing building codes, and making sure people were being treated humanely, and repairing reputation.

Please click on this link below to watch this video below about the business of fast fashion hosted by Online MBA. It's thought provoking an makes you think a little harder about your clothing/accessory choices.

What you can do: There are so many things that YOU have the power to do as a consumer. You just have to be more aware about where you products come from. Take a look at the label. If you're thinking that you're getting a deal by buying an item of clothing for $10 made from Bangladesh or other Asian, African or Latin American countries, you're not. Labor is less than 1% of the cost. Take a little time to think about the impact you are able to have on the lives of the garment workers just by the choices you make.

This is only the beginning of the conversation friends. Let's keep the conversation going. Email me at sophia@evolvemintfashion.com

We work with woman owned businesses in Bangladesh. It is possible to make an impact through your choices.

Much love. Till the next time.