Fast Fashion in Bangladesh and the Unfortunate Use of Sweatshops

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Who made that t-shirt you have sitting at home? The one so simple yet stylish you got in different colours at a reasonable price? Until spring 2013, many of us around the world did not think about where, what hands, were used to make some of our clothes. There are many organizations out there that are founded by institutions that regard political, governmental, religious, or other factors across the world.

The industry, Fast Fashion, located in Bangladesh, is the second largest garment exporter thanks to rapid production. Children, youth, women, men, people of all ages and type work for this institution. Poor, uneducated, employees are used to work for companies in countries such as Europe and parts of America. Unfortunately, on April 24, 2013, the collapse of the Rana Plaza building occurred, also known as one of the worst accidents in garment history, causing over 1,110 deaths and hundreds of more injuries. After the tragedy, global garment brands continue to profit exploitation of workers.

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Bangladesh's Fast Fashion is an industry that regards an economical and market institution which affects a couple of the top 10 issues concerning Millennials and Generation Z. Poverty, inequality, and lack of education are main issues portrayed by the industry. Working in labour with an unsafe and unsecure environment in the past and present days is seen, these employers hire uneducated people to work, even at young ages, and along with the hardcore labour, lack of worthy payment and harsh, strict, working conditions is given to them.

Not only has the institution participated in these issues, but is evolved around Marxism, feminism, and humanism. For example, workers produce clothes under strict deadlines for very low wages, the clothing company creates climate of harassment and violence which look at female’s reality, or in other words, gender inequality, and employees are not valued enough and unfortunately, treated quite unfairly. Fast fashion has caused a global demand for clothes that has come to the expense of poor, uneducated workers who toil at the lower end of the supply chain.

The institution shows us all that there is a conflict theory because it shows a society that conflicts with each other and Marxism claims that this conflict is between the rich and the poor. As mentioned before, workers produce clothes under strict rules made by their ‘rulers’ for low wages. As we understand, Marxism is mainly an economical view of the way things are built and suggestions to where society is headed. As of Fast Fashion, it is just an excuse for the rich to exploit the poor for profit.

Feminism is a broad term where it relates to gender equality as well. The advocacy of women’s rights on the basic of equality is lacked in Fast Fashion. Uneducated girls and women are worked under strict conditions with constant demands given from men. It shows how men ar in power of controlling what goes on in the industry.

The value and agency of humans in the workplace is downgraded in Bangladesh. Humanism is shown throughout many places, especially where there is poverty. Everyday risks, everything from dust and smoke inhalation, noise, lack of ventilation, eyestrain, musculoskeletal pain, stress, and exposure to lights, electric wires, and chemical adhesives. Ashraf, a Bangladeshi anthropologist, discovered that workers are having to make a trade-off between earning a living and caring for their health, which can rapidly depreciate during their working lives, undermining their long-term physical and mental well-being.

To bring back the industry’s issues, the main one that is visible is poverty. Along with that, inequality, lack of education, and lack of safety/security are what branches out from it. Poverty in Bangladesh is popular as people are seen suffering and working with persistent food insecurity, no environmental assets, damaged shelter, lack of infrastructure, etc. With poverty comes lack of safety and security. The collapse of the Rana Plaza building, the place where they worked, caused a disastrous scene, as mentioned before. The Rana Plaza was commercial building that housed garment units on its upper levels. The building that collapsed had already been evacuated the day before after cracks were identified, but the factory management had made workers return to work under the pressure of looming shipping deadlines. During the morning rush hour, the building collapsed in on itself like a house of cards. Factors dedicated to poverty occurred before the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, and still, even after the damage, continues to occur today.

To end poverty or to raise the middle class, as a group we can do a lot to get rid of it. For example, creating better, well-paying jobs, by increasing minimum wage, establish work schedules that work out, invest in affordable, high quality, childcare and education, and to simply, learn to do no harm. To kick-start job growth, the federal government should invest in job-creation strategies such as rebuilding our infrastructure; developing renewable energy sources; renovating abandoned housing; and making other common-sense investments that create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and boost our national economy. Even increasing minimum wage can help a family improve their living. Schedules are a good way to balance an employee’s erratic work hours with taking care for their families and will help assist in childcare they need in order to improve the future of the economy. In addition, a safe, respectable, working environment will come much in use for these workers.

Education gives us knowledge of the world around us and gives us a perspective on life. Fast Fashion hires uneducated employees to work so much where they do not have the time to go to school due to that or even because of affordability, as mentioned before. Focusing on education, especially in a developing country like Bangladesh, it is a key driver for reducing poverty, fostering economic growth, achieving gender equality, and social development. These benefits are greater when support for education is targeted toward girls.

Providing education will give the youth a new life, a new chance, for them to live a reasonable life. According to the Canadian government, girls in developing countries who finish their education tend to get married later with having children later, less prone to be victims of sexual violence, less likely have children who suffer from malnutrition, etc. Distant, overcrowded places, poor quality of teaching, school fees, uniform, supplies, books, irrelevant curriculum, are all what prevents children and youth from getting a high-quality education. To support education in developing countries, it is possible to work to end school-related gender-based violence and harmful practices, make an effort for schools to be responsive for providing water, sanitation, and hygiene needs (especially for girls), improve the development and distribution of relevant, gender-sensitive learning materials plus curricula, build the capacity of government education officials, and support new and existing teacher training institutes to create a professional accredited cadre of teachers. Investments in these activities will truly save these people not only for those undergoing poverty, but inequality, personal development, and much more.

Inequality is visible in all places around the world. Whether it comes to race, gender, age, class, etc., people manage to lack equality anytime, anywhere. For Fast Fashion, treatment based on inequality has do to with hardcore labour, unworthy payment, harsh working conditions, and feminism. As mentioned, previously, working under strict hours, limited break times, nonstop, are all what the industry’s workers went through. In the end, the employees take home very little which isn’t much helpful to survive on and run the family. Faced with the grim reality of 14-16 hours, per day, unsafe conditions and poverty pay, Bangladeshi garment workers are far from hapless victims; they continue to fight every day to improve working conditions, and we must continue to support them in their fight for justice and dignity, said a campaigner. Additionally, abuse is a daily reality for female garment works for Gap, H&M, Walmart, Joe Fresh, says report. Pressure to meet fast fashion deadlines is leading to women being sexually and physically abused, according to unions and rights groups. Women are constantly told to “work harder”, “work faster”, and other statements only left to bring them down.

Inequality is something quite hard to get rid of as there as many things out there for them to be unequal of. However, limiting, or even ending some options, is possible. A few ways for people to reach their ‘heaven’ or in other words, reduce inequality in the workplace includes excluding labour-like work ethics or stopping abuses, having progressive income with reasonable shift hours, having the workers’ right to organize with agreement, and gender rights. Ending hardcore work ethics will allow workers to want to come to work and it would be equal to those that are working where it is labour free. In addition, having an abusive environment will just make it worse; therefore, ending that will not only provide equality, but infrastructure too. I believe it is fair for people to make enough money that is worthy. People should be able to survive on their weekly payments without a lot of trouble, especially those working in conditions where they most deserve it. The right of workers to organize has always been a cornerstone of more equal societies and should be prioritized and protected wherever this basic right is violated. Extreme inequality requires the disempowerment of workers, therefore, the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively for better pay and conditions is a global human rights priority. Gender inequality is a common trouble around the world. Having women work in an unfair place shows feminism and an overpower of men. Equality among everyone will strengthen the economy and develop a greater route.

There are many novels out where assets of either poverty, lack of education, lack of safety and/or security, and inequality is shown.

One literary text I recently read in a class was Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, a worldwide known story. The novel has to do with the story of a young shepherd, Santiago, who searches to find a treasure beyond his wildest dreams. Along the way, he learns to listen to his heart and, more importantly, realizes that his dreams, or his Personal Legend, are not just his, but part of the Soul of the Universe. I noticed a sense of inequality when the love of his life, Fatima, a woman of the Middle East, was introduced. Coelho explicitly indicates that women don’t have their own Personal Legends, meaning that the question of choosing to follow them never even arises. It conveyed gender inequality among the characters. The men were technically allowed to wonder free, follow their dreams, or do whatever they wish to do, whereas, women only had one specific job: a stay at home woman waiting to be wedded.

Another text I've recently read was Shakespeare's King Lear. The king of the play has three daughters: Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. In the beginning of the play, the king announced his intention of dividing the kingdom into three parts and giving each one to his daughters. The largest share would be given to the daughter who can say that she loves him the most, but we all knew that Cordelia is his favourite, and would be given the best reward. However, she refused to flatter the king and was steering away from what was expected of women, to be fully committed to men and show devotion to them. Also, the nobleman Gloucester’s son, Edmund, is treated poorly and abused because he is a bastard – not his illegitimate son. Inequality and unfairness do not only exist in the outside world of economy and market, but also within one’s household.

I know for a fact that industries like Fast Fashion are everywhere. From where I am from, Pakistan, Fast fashion is a phenomenon not new to the global market. International retail giants such as Zara, Mango and H&M popularized it several decades ago when socio-economic changes saw women dedicate less time to buying loose fabric and getting it tailored and embellished ­— a practice that lagged just as life became fast-tracked. The experiment worked equally well in Pakistan when almost a decade ago, local clothing brands began to focus on the commoditization of ready-made dresses that were both high-end and reasonably priced. Years later, it has emerged to the fore as one of the leading retail markets in the country, with brands such as Khaadi, Nishat, Origins, BeachTree, Ego and Limelight taking giant leaps. Mostly female workers are used to make clothes there. Real life situations such as their father getting sick, and many years later, working at a factory stitching college sweatpants and hoodies that go to America. They’re used to all the injustices here, demanding that they are not harassed, are paid on time, and given proper food to eat. They head home with very little money and try to do everything they can for their family and their university/college education.

I just stop and wonder sometimes. What if I was born and raised there because my family was? Would I grow up into working in a garment factory? Would I have enough money, enough food, or an education? I will never know how women like me in countries such as Pakistan are able to handle such qualities. As a born citizen of Canada, I am quite lucky to be raised in a nice home, have three meals a day, come home to a loving family after getting a beneficial education, and not have to work a day in my life until after I have completed my studies. I believe we should think about what others are going through and try to do as much as we can and spread the news to make a better economy. A wise world for the better.

Next time you pick up to buy a shirt at your local shopping store, remember to think about what hands, what struggle and sweat went into the work put into it. Poverty with lack of safety and security, inequality, and lack of education are some of the top concerning issues today and you shouldn’t be one of the reasons added to why those problems exist.

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