Ms Nicole Doeswijk is the Garment Sector & CSR Lead at Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bangladesh. She is working with local RMG sector closely. From her viewpoint there are different players here and all the players have their interest. The thing is because we have all these players, it is also important to find a balance between all these to find a balance in interest in order to create maintain, transparent and sustainable garments sector. The extraordinary thing she saw here is happened after the tragic event atRana plaza. From that event all interested parties both locally and internationally realized that something had to happen…it was horrific. We had accident in the past and unfortunately till Rana plaza collapsed no one took those accident or safety issue seriously. The mechanism happened after Rana plaza was all the concerned bodies said we have to work together. They recognized they all have interests and they all have their responsibilities.
Nicole also said, this wave of change not only affect the producers but also swept the buyers and consumers. They also recognized this issue and got to know it is time to change the behavior and needs to take action. She believes no a day consumers are more aware from where their clothes are coming from, who the manufactures are and what they cost, buyers are getting increasingly more aware than before. This needs for progress, transparent and sustainable change takes time. Still a lot of buyers want to collect products in cheap rate, it is a regular demand. After Rana plaza incident all conscious bodies raised their voice for sustainable environment where products are manufactured, with respectful labor rights and working conditions. Nicole considers many steps have been taking, already prior to Rana Plaza some steps were taken and after Rana plaza in context of Bangladesh factories have been inspected and all these factories which exports garments to Europe and USA are being inspected. Now the authority and policy maker are now in a position to know whether these factories are safe or not. As she said, “The next step is in case they are unsafe how to improve these factories but at least we know now before we did not, we did not have even any access, we did not have any list of all these factories. So, the progress is coming slowly and also in Europe the European Union members said, they are taking responsibility. For instance, in Netherlands the government is taking responsibility and developing their own action plan on how to improve the government value chain and in broader the textile chain from cotton to get into the consumer and they established all kinds of working groups in Netherlands with all different issues such as child issues, environmental standards, labor conditions- these topics not only referred to Bangladesh but also to all countries the state imports garments.” Nicole feels very sad and unfortunate that Rana Plaza had happened but at least we can draw lessons from it and actually starts improving Bangladesh Garments Sector. For Bangladesh scenario Nicole suggests that accountability would be the keyword if local stakeholder’s wants get rid of this type of occurrence.
Written by: Imran Firdaus
Fashion and clothing is the part and parcel of our daily lifestyle. Around the world a lot of brain and mind are working for this sector to offer extra-ordinary offer to consumers to present them with style in front of their respected society. Beside fashion designers, merchandisers, producers a group of people are working, researching about the prospect of the industry as well as for the consumers too; not only that they are working on how to create fashion without pollution and how to sustainability and fashion can be combined.
Hasmik Matevosyan is one of them who think about these issues. She is a fashion researcher and designer. She authored a book titled ‘Paradigm shift in fashion’. Her vision and mission is to improve the fashion industry. As she believed, “I’d develop the solutions which make the fashion more profitable where paying fair wages and saving the environments; and where also offering the attracting cloths to the customers in a kind of win-win situation. For that goal after doing five years of research where I looked first of all into every step of fashion chain, into basically what is fashion and the fashion communication including psychology, business modules and other design disciplines.” As an output of the research she developed a new design system and a new business module that helped to design cloths that really matter and actually make ethical and sustainable cloths which are also profitable for the fashion brands. Hasmik showed in her research that today fashion industries do thirty percent over production now a day. This thirty percent of finished packaged products never sold. Yet another thirty percent is only sold with discount. “I believe if it would only focus on making the production more sustainable and do nothing about the design that would not really solve the problem. So first of all we need to solve the 30 percent over production then make the production more ethical and sustainable and then also look into recycling”- this is how Hasmik thinks we can make fashion and cloths more accessible and reuse able.
Hasmik clarifies her motivation behind the research is pro-public. Approximately 75 million people working in the industry and also they are working more than slavery. Everyone is just happy to have their cloths with style/fashion and usually nobody give a darn about this new age slavery. Though nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks I want to harm people and hurts environments. From this point of view Hasmik digging up the sector to comprehend why that is happening. To find out the reasons she looked into the whole fashion chain like from cotton farmers to polyethylene bag companies until the weaving, knitting, and manufacturing of the cloths, transportation and shops. After dissecting the scenario she found that there are 3 main stake holders in whole fashion chain. So, who are they? Hasmik considers these are consumers, fashion brands and manufacturers. As she explained it, “You have consumers who actually bring money in. If there were no consumer nothing would run. You have fashion brands that come up with the idea of cloths they create. They also make the decisions about the price, manufacturing and all these things. And the third one is one of the most important is manufacturers. If there were no people to make the cloth then a fashion brand can think of it but nobody is going to produce it then consumer cannot buy.”
Those are the most three important reasons. Everything depends on money and the reason of people being harmed and more than slavery is because of money. Because people don’t put the time needed to find out the solution- Hasmik does believe so. “So I found the way which you can have extra profits be transparent and improve like each stakeholder.”
Hasmik’s research has two parts - one is the design system and other is the business module. Design system contains five steps and the goal of it is to connect the consumers with the fashion brands.
But, right now there is no connection, there is no relationship. So the fashion brands randomly design cloths and also it became so cheap to produce it. Hasmik added, “they just do it and they have very high margins on the cloths they produce. So they always earn their investments back, even some cloths would not sale. That’s the reality. They don’t know what to design.” Hasmik’s design system helps to understand what to design and why to do so. So they get in touch with their consumers. They have to test moments for the designs. For that reason producers have to have knowledge about their target demography.
Supposed a place have a community with 5000 people. On the whole they have different sizes. Say, 30 percent of them has size small and 5 percent has medium. That’s what producers need to produce. First of all they prevent over production which would be the waste of investment. They have an extra budget that can be invested in paying fair wages.
And they can put their money also using better quality materials. This is the step one.
Step two is Hasmik also developed the business modules and the business modules help to make fashion brands five times profitable and ethical. In the traditional module which we are using today is you have cloths for 100 percent of the price. They are being sold in the first one or two months in the shops. After that the price is dropped radically. Then cloths are offered with 25 percent to even 90 percent discount. If it wouldn’t get sold it gets burnt.
That’s the traditional module and Hasmik though which is a brainless act. It would be much smarter if the fashion house would sale the cloths with 100 percent of the consumer price. Next to it if they would loan cloth another part of the lower budget just like the clothing library.
And then when the cloths have been brought back to sale its second hands. But they don’t earn anything on it. “So I help them to make more money and also being environmentally friendly. And apart from these extra profits can be invested in building relation with our customers and part of it can be invested in fair wages, education even you could think of kindergarten next to the factory, doctors, hospitals whatever is needed just to improve the conditions and what they are not having right now”- Hasmik tried to explain how the producers can make profit just use their intuitions.
But, some people raise points about Hasmik’s model and wondered may be theoretically her model is correct but not pragmatically. But Hasmik is confident enough to pronounce that, “It is 100 percent possible. I’m now talking to fashion brands. I introduced the whole fashion concept last year October and now it is July 2015. I am talking to couple of big brands for whom it is not possible to integrate right the way. So they need to serve with very small collections, pilot collection to test it. Step by step they are designing now. The way I suggest them to design their cloths. And when we are talking about starting fashion brands that means that exists for one to five years. It’s very easy for them to switch the module. Because I’m not judging them I need to invest the money.”
From fairground she is helping them to save money and to improve their image to be more environmentally friendly and to have a fact based on which they can produce cloths.
“If you want to change something in the world you have to offer the people who actually have to change their behavior something that they want. So, I developed the design system and the business module in the way they answer, they demand and they need. That’s why that is so attractive to them. And to make sure that is being applied soon. I’m gonna give all the knowledge for free. They are willing to try the pilot collections”- Hasmik is hopeful with his action plan.
By nature every new born concept has challenge of being succeeded that is also applicable to Hasmik’s module. The only challenge right now she is having is her module is not fitting in traditional way of how things are going right now. So, as it takes a fresh starts, in the beginning her research module/plan needs time to roll out properly. That does not mean Hasmik does not have any solution for that situation, “there are actually two solutions. One of them is starting designing earlier. The second one is building relationships with the shops and explaining them why cloths are going to be later.”
Generally everybody gets panic when they have deadlines. But if a fashion brand would have a direct relationship with the consumers it does not matter if the cloths are being offered 10 days or 12 days later. It’s as long as they know why.
“When you have a relationship you know that there is trust, there is added value. Because the fashion brands listen the frustration you are in. They have listened what you need or what you cannot find in the shops and they are going to offer it to you. Randomly just designing thing without knowing what you want or what you don’t want. You have already connection with the brands and you already know they are doing something special for you, it’s okay to wait”- Hasmik thinks ‘trust’ is the keyword to modify the regular scenario.
In comparison to the fashion brands that are going to be very fast, they are not going to offer quality. Quality does not have to go with high price. But getting cloths within affordable price is the habitual demand from the consumers. That is the pickup line for the fast fashion producers. Fast fashion is the cloths can be produced fast like in two to six weeks. The faster are the better. Here comes another important point that is customer’s desire. Hasmik explains, “When I am taking about the desire of the customers it means that you have three different fields of desire and need when it comes to cloths. As a consumer you have your own budget. You have your expectations for that money you are going to pay. Then you have physical needs like feels on skin or the feel in movement, comfortable all these things. Last one is psychological motives which are actually the whole fundamental part of wearing cloths. This makes you more attractive, not being judged by others for what you are wearing. If a fashion brand has relationship with the customers they would know the customer’s need. Customers are going to know that this fashion brand has answer for them. And then it’s not a problem. Because you know that’s something I want and that’s something I don’t want.”
Again, fast fashion cloths also have a lower quality. Usually the waged are not fair. That’s why it’s so fast and so cheap. Hasmik believes that is very well possible to produce fast when producers have lower quantity to be produced. So that is 30 percent less cloth needed to be produced. So the fast production can stay.
Hasmik not only thinks about customer-manufacturer relation but also about workers. From her observation, the reason of the wages is not fair today because the business module of the fashion brand is wrong. It is based on very high margins. What they are doing right now is they economize the production expenses and also raised the margins of their profits.”
In her business module she helps to not get the over production for the investments that don’t need to be earned back. Next to it she also said sale in 100 percent of the price. If somebody doesn’t have the money to pay they can borrow cloths for a very low price like 2 euro per day or 20 euro per month. Next to it if they do not want to borrow they can buy second hand with discount.
“So I make affordable high quality cloths to everybody. It’s receiving a huge discount. They are receiving in a different way of being able to wear the cloths. Either they still buy a new cloth with the 100 percent of the price or they can borrow cloths with the subscription or they can buy second hand cloths with discount from the fashion brand. That’s going to be fast fashion in couple of years”- Hasmik can feel future through the behavioral attitude of consumers and manufacturers.
In recent times the cruel example of fast fashion is Rana plaza incident. Hasmik knows about what happened there. Her research was done prior that incident though. She thinks, “a lot of people suddenly realize something is wrong. They are not completely look into whatever the wrong is. They have to pay the attention. I also heard after Rana plaza more fast fashions have been sold and I do not know how it works psychologically…They think it is really harsh. But they have consumers; I am talking about consumers and also about fashion brands. They know what happened and it is harsh but they don’t feel like they have any power of improving it. They feel like it is the culture and the situation in that country. So there is nothing we can do about it. If I wouldn’t buy that cheap T-shirt nothing is going to change in the world. So they don’t see the power.” Hasmik Matevosyan believes if we really want to change the scenario and turn the fashion culture tendency more into sustainable and eco-friendly way then we have to be act more aware and ultimately that will change the industry’s orthodox understandings.
Every road leads to destination. The road especially in road trip sometimes people follow the familiar course of path and occasionally some people wants to discover new trail. Four years ago Elisa Jansen, co-founder of Lina, the fashion library and her friends went on a road trip. Though they roll on a familiar course of path by vehicle but psychologically they had a different trip. Every trip comes with some memories, ideas and vision about life/lifestyle. So, that happened as well with Elisa and her friends. On that very trip they come up with a new idea of fashion library. The idea of establishing Lina, the fashion library popped up on their moment on that trip. The main goal of the fashion library is people should consume less and think a little bit better before buy something. Fashion library is a place where anyone can borrow cloth(s) and after use will return that cloth(s). For this purpose public does not have to pay for the cloth(s) every time. The concept is more likely borrowing a book from a book library. Elina explained the way it works, “. The concept is we don’t only store but you can also borrow cloths with the subscription or stamp card. I think borrowing is really nice way to do it. For example, taste something before you buy it, or you can wear it for once and return it for something else. I already have business with my two sisters and it’s a vintage web shop. We all are always busy with the reuse of clothing and how to innovate it and make it really fun.”
After three years of researching, planning, taking opinion from different group they opened the library in 2014’s December. At first the plan was selling cloths. But, they found quite handful of libraries in Scandinavian countries. So, they contacted with them and took contribution of knowledge from those libraries. In The Netherlands Elisa Jansen and her associates first started setup and run this type of fashion library. They are getting good vibes and feedbacks from people, as a result other enthusiastic people opened another fashion library in January. This incident made Elisa happy, “it’s really nice to see that the idea is so popular and more and more people believe in the idea we get a couple of e-mails in a week from the people all over the world who wants to start a fashion library. So it’s really fun.” Her observations imply that people like to wear a different stuff a lot. But it’s not sustainable in the way if everyone produces new and advanced. “There are so much beautiful things are ready. Why not we use them or share them that were more the reason than we looked for a books library. All we can do it also with clothing. Our goal is to have a library all over the world, but in the past 6 months we opened and we already learned a lot”- Elisa explains the philosophy and vision behind starting, running this pro-people idea. There are so many different styles and public cannot have them in all in one library. So, they thought they can more facilitate the clothing systems to the other stores. That is why they are thinking of opening a little bartender store with the borrowing system in the other stores in Amsterdam. Through this they are thinking of going more closer to the consumers, “We can provide our subscribers and our systems so we can make a whole network of borrowing points. I think that will be really nice for stores. They can do really nice things all those they have or they can taste products and if you see feedback. And for our subscribers one day they join us they get a whole map of Amsterdam with all those points they can go through and it’s really nice.” That is their goal for growing.
Anyone can borrow cloth(s) with subscriptions or stamp cards. They have three levels of subscriptions and lowest is 20 USD per month. Consumers can always have 100 points in their position. All clothing have point such as a simple tops is about 25 points and highest is 100. Consumers can swap whenever they like. Elisa mentioned, “When you bring something back you can choose something else for these points. You can also keep things in home for months; it does not matter if you pay your monthly fee. We also have stamp cards and it’s more convenient, if you want to borrow once in a while something, then you buy 500 points and we just stamps what you take with you but you have to bring it back in 5 days.” That is the difference between subscription and stamp.
The consumer group is a really broad group. It is broader than Elisa and her friends thought before they started. They have younger subscribers like 15 years old as well as ladies who are over 60 years old. It is really broad because the reason of joining is really different. They have sustainable reason(s). They like to try before they buy a closet with small budget. They get chance to experience the different styles.
One of the primary goals of this concept is lessening the interest of buying fast fashion. Incident like Rana plaza building collapse is the cruelest example of fast fashion. But current scenario seems like people are not gave enough attention about the incident. “They heard in the news but I do not know why it is just fading away from people’s memory. May be in the beginning they think oh I do not want to buy any fast fashion anymore or then it is failing and then they start to buy it again.” So they would like to keep up this discussion inside and outside of the fashion industries, because it’s not okay. It should harm no people, no animals or no nature; as minimal as possible. If this borrowing system is really well, then they will collaborate with new levels and upcoming designers.
The labels Lina, the fashion library is currently collaborating which have some like vision of them, so they think it will be a sustainable concept or something to do with their concept
Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is a self-governing, non-profit association that works with business organizations and industrial units to improve labor state of affairs for garment workers. It is a labor right organization based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Currently it is handling one hundred and twenty brands of ninety member companies. These companies are based in seven European countries. It is active in 11 production countries in Asia, Europe and Africa.
FWF works with workers, factory owners, factory management, local NGOs and trade unions, Local government, local business association through their member companies.
There are five strategies of FWF. At first they do a country study or research about that country’s local laws, compliance support. FWF also looks at individual factories. FWF does social audits, and beside audits they do provide training. FWF directly provides training to factory management and also to factory workers. They have complain handler. Workers can call to file a complaint. They operate helpline, anyone can call them to file complain. For that support FWF has complain strategy, policy and mechanism.
Besides working with the factories and the workers and local societies, FWF works with the brands. FWF believes that international brands have responsibilities to get the way with the suppliers and factories to improve the working conditions. For this reason they look at commitment and effort of their member brands. So that is two sides they have to take care of. “And the last part is we want to make sure that our brand is transparent” - Julliet Lee, the representative of FWF explained their work flow to afterranaplaza.com.
As Julliet Lee said FWF regularly check the situations of member companies to sort out the issues to improve the condition for the workers. After the performance check they publish an annual report every year. It is their one of the responsibilities to inform the public how they are doing and what they are going to do next. FWF has the responsibility to prove their working plan in front of the people.
In Bangladesh FWF have two training programs. There are two topic of training. One is fire and building safety and another one is violence against women. There are two steps of training. One step is training to the factory management. This training is not in a technical way. This is not how to prevent fire, how to use technical things. This is the training to encourage the factory management to take all responsibilities and help them to find alternative ways to improve the condition within the own resources of Bangladesh. So basically it is to encourage them to take responsibilities. Fair Wear Foundation does not have capacity to provide the technical training on fire and building safety, they use external resources.
After Rana Plaza incident FWF hired two engineers from The Netherlands to visit Bangladesh. They developed together with our local stuff, our local auditor. The program is designed by them. At the beginning one of the engineers was sent there with our local stuffs. Now these are delivered by our local audit supervisors.
Apart from that we started this helpline actually before Rana plaza incident. In 2013 we received around 1070 calls. In 2014 we received around 300 calls and it is getting more recent days. There is a complain handler in Bangladesh. In Fair Wear Foundation we have code of labor practices. The members are supposed to print the code of labor practices with the helpline number.
Afterranaplaza.com asked Julliet Lee how the helpline works and she said, “These posters have to be posted in factories and in easily accessible place for the workers. And our auditors will check it. And the member companies have responsibilities to check the helpline number in factories. Another thing is we also give stickers and the fliers to the workers. Sticker is important, because in Bangladesh workers don’t have wallet to put the fliers in it. They can paste sticker in house or somewhere else. So workers can know about the telephone number and they can call the complain handler.”
At the other part there is a person who can speak both Bangla and English. Julliet also added, “If somebody calls her she check it. If the complain is about the factory currently supplying to Fair Wear member. Because there are two criteria to admit complain. Number one is complain has to be related to the labor issues. Number two is the company has to supply the Fair Wear member as we can handle it. We have our member companies committed. If the complain is not about fair wear member then we forward it to ngo, trade union or government.
If the complain is in our member, they inform us right away via either call or sending me e-mail. In seven days we decide to get away with member brand to tell the worker if this case is mixable. If we take the case onwards, then our member brand will first check this with the factory manager. We do not just consider the worker’s side. We also look after the factory management side. And after that we start investigation. Sometime the factory managements admit their guilt and handle the issue. Sometime the factory management has the totally different story from what they told us. After investigation we have a work plan, corrective action plan. The brand and factory management have to agree the steps. After a year or half of a year we interview to check still it happens or not.” Fair Wear Foundation know ‘change requires a major joint effort’ and they are working for reaching that aim.
Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) concern about another issue from workers perspective is minimum wages. It is their one of the human rights. Living way should be the same with minimum wages. Minimum wages should be high enough with people can live their life with this. But the government has to consider minimum wages and many things. It is not easy fot FWF to make a reasonable agreement on this issue among companies, worker and governments. As a representative of FWF Julliet expressed her view, “Basically it’s a salary that allows someone to live with family and make some savings. I can tell you for Bangladesh as example minimum wages is now 5400 taka.
Living wages according to the calculation of some of our stakeholders it should be 8000, some says 12000. This is how much workers need to live his/her life. It is true that you can see the workers have to do a lot of overtime to get 8000 or 12000 taka. More people cannot go higher or most people cannot go either. If this is lower, they cannot maintain it anymore. So now they have to work a lot to ensure the living wages.”
Stakeholders have to find how to pay for it. Of course there is some existing body such as a strong trade union to negotiate that part. But for example in Bangladesh the trade union is not active. About 10 percent of total factories or may be very low have trade union.
Those unions are not well supported as well and they are not that powerful. So in Bangladesh negotiated wages is maybe only in few factories. “So in Fair Wear Foundation we use the commitment of our brands, use the labor rights in our brands to support for paying minimum living wages. For example in their calculation we save 20 cents for outdoor jackets but it’s not so much. This amount should go directly to the workers. So their wage will go to a certain level.
FWF’s brands also say they want to give that amount to the workers in many different ideas. Now many brands have to make the budget of wages. Julliet thinks many of their brands are willing to make effort for living wages. But the process is not easy to make. Because the factory management might not be that willing to make that happen. FWF think paying more is a good thing and thought it is easy. But there are lots of obstacles FWF have to overcome.
“In beginning there were lots of discussions, negotiation on living wages. Fair wear Foundation said let’s not spend so much discussing on 8000 or 8500 taka. Let’s start doing something. If we can find the way to make it real then every step we could make different for the workers. Academic research said us to pay 10000 taka and Asian Floor Wages said 12000 taka. The local trade union in Bangladesh said for 8000 taka. We listed all these. So companies can look at these. This is the thing stakeholders want. If the company wants to take step to follow the wages of Asian Floor Wages then that is very happy notion for us. If they are willing to follow the local trade union’s asking or academic research’s wages then we also welcome”- this FWF is currently negotiating with member companies about living wages for workers.
Fair Wear Foundation is also concern about building safety. Because of not only Rana plaza incident, they think prevention is always better that remediation. After Rana plaza FWF looked into their audit method. They think their auditors or audit method don’t have capacity to look after the building safety. For example, how many fire exits or fire extinguisher there are, they can check that. But the load capacity or cracks in the building are beyond FWF’s capacity. “Our auditors can nothing to do with that. Other organization like Accord is very professional with building safety. Fair Wear foundation is also going to develop the skill or we encourage our members to join the Accord. We do something complimentary. What we think around 80 percent of our brand has been listed with Accord. 80 percent suppliers of our member companies are also Accord members. So they would already check the building safety. What we can contribute, before Accord start their training we train the factory managers to take responsibilities. They should be concerning about their all employees. They should be concerning about their own properties. If there is a fire, fire is not going to be discriminative. Worker or manager in a fire means they are gone. This is actually their saying.”
After Rana plaza incident in 2013 and 2014 about 200 factories of Fair Wear Foundation members have received the training on fire and building safety. In beginning of this year FWF have started training program for trainers on building safety. They trained about 20 trade union workers in Bangladesh. All of them are industrial members. They also developed a training program for the local trade unionist. FWF think local trade unionist could train the workers and negotiate with factory managements. So they can work hard in this working condition.
Before and after Rana plaza incident a lot of measures and cautions are taken by local garments factories and suppliers as well as policy groups, activist organizations to ensure the healthy working condition and living wages for workers.
Mr. Pierre Mayaudon is current ambassador of the European Union in Bangladesh. He has been appointed head of the European Union Delegation to Bangladesh from 2014. He has an extensive diplomatic and defense background in the French administration, including as deputy director within the Ministry of defense.
In April 2013 when Ran plaza incident happened he was then that serving deputy head of the EU Delegation to Pakistan, though he remembers that day clearly. In Pakistan he saw some industrial disaster as well as had special attention towards what was just developing in Bangladesh. Ashonorable ambassador said, “that time I already had a keen interest for possible posting in Bangladesh. So this was also a multiplying factor for I kept myself very much updated on tragedy itself and the action was EU going to take in relation in this disaster. ”
A lot of people were victimized by the incident. From Mr. Pierre Mayaudon’s perspective amongst the victims was high number of woman. It was a shocking data for them. Because the people EU wished to assist and to support is women, and female empowerment is an important factor and element of the EU agenda. So after Rana plaza EU tried to assist by giving them job opportunities.
After Rana plaza the dynamics between local RMG sector and international market has changed a lot. Before Rana Plaza the issue was to access the market and how Bangladesh could take a best possible advantage that EU had granted to all least developed countries. “Bangladesh being one of them we observed”- said by Mr. Pierre Mayaudon. Ambassador of the European Union in Bangladesh precisely thanks to popular industrial organizations that have strong involvements of all stakeholders in this RMG sector including obviously the labors for the role they played after the incident.
Afterranaplaza.com asked the ambassador what are objectives of EU body in this changing scenario, in reply of the question he expressed “Bangladesh was taking tremendous benefit of the so called GSP EBA and this was our main focus to observe the progress and to accompany this progress in terms of overall developments and impact could be as major as possible. Obviously right after this tragedy is the orientation, a chance to focus if not solely on the action to be taken. So that precisely our objectives remain same.”
EU offers best possible guarantee to labor force, which is called sustainability compact. This was an initiative submitted by EU right after Rana Plaza collapsed to bring together the government of Bangladesh, EU, ILO and soon the US to join in order to agree the platform that would facilitate and encourage actions to promote better safety and better working conditions. Also EU tries to encourage a better labor and social dialogue on the working place through trade unions or initiatives; finally to encourage the social responsibility.
This activities and dialog has started few weeks after Rana Plaza collapsed. Until today the proper implementation of the sustainability compact in all its dimensions has been not a matter of just attention, but has been as obsession for the EU in Bangladesh and for its head quarter in Brussels as well.
Honorable ambassador also point out the issue like Fair pricing. It is a topic that specially comes out recently. And EU feels that within the RMG industry in Bangladesh it is a growing concern. “Our point on that is pretty clear. This is a matter of negotiation between the RMG industry of Bangladesh and the brands, those companies in Europe but they have the part in northern America as well. I proceed that is the high degree of openness on European brands when it comes to the pricing issue. If they have reasonable degree of attitude that increases the pricing, will benefit the labor force, will be an encouragement for safer working condition. These are the few reasons. I think it is important to realize that for their modern consumers in Europe. Price is only one of several parameters in the decision making process of buying or not buying the products” – from his comment it is clear that European Union’s motivation about Rana plaza incident.
Incidents like Rana plaza collapse not only shakes the industry and international business but also traumatized general consumers of fast fashion. After the incident consumers are willing to know what is the story behind the product or in which country the product is manufactured, the image of fair labor or the opposite. In this sense Mr. Pierre Mayaudon thinks RMG sector and brands are ready for a little bit of additional price.
Before Rana Plaza it was Bangladeshi RMG industry that was engaging with the international market and right after Rana plaza tragedy it was the international market engaging with the Bangladeshi RMG industry. Mr. Ambassador thinks it is a positive development in the scenario. In course of time EU has reached its step of matured dialogue between partners who have common objectives.
Mr. Ambassador is pretty confident about corresponding the reality they have consensus on what is needed or what has been done. “I think everybody appreciates the efforts that have been engaged in all sides. And we also appreciate that we still have number of challenges to address. But we positively address them only if we remain united”- He is hopeful about the changes.
Rana plaza shockwave immediately caused unity between all stakeholders those living in Bangladesh and Europe, but united around the same purpose which is to make this RMG so crucial in Bangladesh and also so important for Europe. European Union knows the objectives and it knows that it will achieve it only if all stakeholders remain united.
Actually right after the tragedy two initiatives were taken in parallel. Institutional and official one which is in sustainability compact and the private sector one which is Accord and Allianz.
“Especially I would say for Europe Accord is associated with more than two hundred European brands. As much as two legs are needed to work properly or to progress on challenging root of difficult zone of improving safety at work in Bangladesh in RMG, but beyond hopefully very soon two initiatives are coming complementary. There will be no progress if the compact alone moves ahead, but the private initiatives of Accord and Allianz is stuck behind. Luckily we have observed but its hard work and the common understanding by the all stakeholders. There are two initiatives have progressed well in parallel over last two years”- Mr. Ambassador explaining the ongoing measurements and the issues they are facing to make the RMG sector’s working condition, safety and labor issue more healthier prior before.
Accord and Allianz together with BUET, local actor have been instrumental in conducting the inspections of the around thousand of factories; and to identify remediation plan that they needed to improve the safety at work. This part of the work has been achieved and now to implement. The implementation is challenging which was the phase of identification.
“We are confident and we are working very closely indeed with Accord and Allianz and with the local industries as well in order to make this remediation plans as quickly as possible” - Mr. Pierre Mayaudon thinks the close monitoring practice will lead to safe future.
He thinks Bangladeshi RMG industry has achieved the quite privileged status. Today if anyone considers as a world RMG market it’s gone only to China, but very far behind Bangladesh. So he suggested for the time being Bangladesh occupies a pretty comfortable position. Market is an association of moving dynamic forces. So nothing is granted or permanent. A number of actors is interested to enter in RMG market or develop their spaces already they have occupied. Some of them are very close to Bangladesh.
In Asia Vietnam is definitely one of them but Cambodia as well may be Indian market tomorrow. So what is reassuring is that also all stakeholders in Bangladesh are very conscious that they have to continue working hard to improve in all fronts. “If they want to preserve, consolidate and bring forward in the sector of RMG. This comes to get an ambitious objectives like the one initiatives identified by the government to reach by 2021. 50 billion US dollar of turnover which would be multiplying by two. It’s not the minor issue in a matter of 5-6 years. I think all stakeholders are convinced. They will not reach these objectives just by duplicating the way that has a load to reach the first 25 billion. The next 25 billion will call for more research and innovation and openness for more foreign investment”- as he said it needs more practical steps and hard working motivation if Bangladesh wants to secure its position in world RMG sector.
“One thing we are discussing about safety that we hear almost every day of human tragedies in Bangladesh related to safety and security. One day it is a child which is beaten to this. One day it is an intellectual who is assassinated at home. The spirit of Rana Plaza should not start and stop within the premises of the RMG industry. It has potential to emulate far beyond as the RMG industry. And legally speaking it will because of provision that act currently designed, implemented and will apply to all sectors of Bangladeshi industry. And this spirit of safety first I think should go beyond the industry itself, should be a concern for other societies, civil societies the official institutions. I think it’s safety first should be the motto of Bangladesh today in face of what we are observing against a giant accumulation of individual tragedies” – As Mr. Pierre Mayaudon mentioned beside giving more attention to climate change and environment issues, safety is the ultimate concern in now a day. He stated clearly that if Bangladesh wants to progress further it should take lesson from Rana plaza incident and take more care and measurement in safety issue.
Mohammad Hassan Ali and his wife Sabina Begum are survivors of the Rana plaza tragedy. They worked in garments factories located in Rana Plaza. Both of them came out of the rubbles almost unharmed, but the incident left irremovable scars on their minds.
Hassan narrated his painful experience on that day: “On 23rd April, a few cracks appeared on the walls of the building and the authority announced the fctory closed for the day and they said they were going to repair the building. On the morning the building collapsed, all the workers went to work, but they didn’t go upstairs. We demanded that the building must be repaired before we start working there. But the factory owner, the managers and the supervisors came down and forced us to go to work.
“At 8:45am the building was started shaking with a loud noise. The ceiling of my floor collapsed but I somehow survived and went outside through the window.” Hassan continued.
When Hassan got out of the building his only concern was his wife.
“I was crying in tension. How could I live without her? I found a hole near the building and with the help of another worker, I went inside,” Hassan reminisced.
He started calling his wife’s name once he entered the building, but he found her near the security guard’s room.
Hassan recalled the moment: “I cried a lot with relief when I found her alive.”
Written by: Mamun
After Rana Plaza collapsed, Hassan and his Wife Sabina Begum faced financial difficulties. Currently both of them are working hard to overcome their financial problems.
Hassan said, “My wife is working currently as a worker in another garments factory. She had to start working because we need money. My son is living with my mother in our village.”
Hassan also said, “My wife doesn’t want to work, but I told her that I can’t manage all the expenses alone. We have to provide our children a proper education. Our lives are finished but our child still has the possibility to do something better.”
Sabina goes to work at early morning and returns at 7:45 pm. Then she has to cook for the whole family. When Hassan gets back home, he helps her, as she can’t do everything alone. Both of them are working hard for their son.
Hassan’s future is still uncertain. He is working as a helper in a construction site. He earns 300 taka per day, which is 7500 per month, and this is not really sufficient. He is not sure how much money his wife will get as salary. And they have to pay tk2000 for their house rent from that money too.
Hassan thinks if he works alone then they can’t think about their future, but if they work together then they can plan a better future.
Hassan thinks Garments sector is a good sector for the working class people. If garments weren’t there in our country then lots of people would have died starving. People from the northern side of our country suffer a lot because there are no works for them. Lots of people from that part of our country come to Dhaka and work in garments factories. That is why we need development in garments sector of Bangladesh.
Hassan said: “If we had garments in the village sides then we wouldn’t need any house rents or any other expenses there. If we had garment factories near Rangpur then we would get good facilities.”
Written by: Mamun
When Rana Plaza collapsed, Hassan’s wife’s received injury in her head and her eardrums were injured by the sound of the crushing building. Sabina Begum, Hassan’s wife, still can’t sleep properly at night. Sometimes she gets angry at him without any reason.
Hassan said, “Sabina is suffering from mental distress. When I found her she was crying sitting with other people. The place was dark and all of them were hopelessly praying for someone to rescue them.”
Sabina also remembered the horrible moment: “When I got stuck inside Rana Plaza I was really scared. It was really dark there and I didn’t have any hope of getting out from there alive.”
While talking about their experience of working in Rana Plaza, Hassan said, “I worked at Rana Plaza for three and half years and my wife worked there for six years. Sabina worked there as an operator, so, she told her supervisor that I want to work there too and they gave me a job. I worked there as an iron man there.”
Hassan said when he and Sabina worked at Rana Plaza, they always got their payments timely. They also earned a good amount of money by working overtime. So, then they earned enough to run their household properly.
Recently they were going through financial hardships, so, despite the condition of her mental and physical health, Sabina took a job in another garments factory to support her family. But the memory of Rana Plaza is still haunting her. She frequently has nightmares, and sometimes she hallucinates. She also worries about the future a lot.
Sabina said, “Sometimes I get a really bad headache. I don’t see anything clearly when the pain starts. I took medicine for some days but now I don’t take any medicine. Whenever I operate any kind of machinery I get this headache & memories of that accident come to my mind.”
Written By: Mamun
Hassan and Sabina are currently going through hardships. Sabina had to start working again in another garments factory, despite going through the horrible experience of Rana Plaza. Hassan is is currently working at a construction site. After Rana Plaza collapsed, they received little help from the government and non-government organizations.
Hassan said: “At first we got a call and someone asked us if we used to work in Rana Plaza. When I told that person that I worked there on the seventh floor, hesaid he is calling from an organization named “Torongo”, and they provided training about how to set up a shop, how to earn profit from it, where can I buy stuffs at low price etc.”
Hassan attended a seven days training program. They gave them lunch and also on the last day of training they gave them transport allowance. Then they said the trainee that they will buy them stuffs so that they can build a shop wherever they want.
As Hssan didn’t have any savings, he took money from his parents and set up a shop.
“It took 1 lakh 20 thousand taka to set my shop. After setting up my shop I called the people from the organization which gave us training so that they come and monitor it. But they told me that they will come after my papers come from a higher authority of that organization. They also told me that they would also buy me some stuffs to run my shop. I spent all the savings of my parents to set up this shop.”
Hassan’s shop is still there in the village. His father is running the shop now. He took loan from Grameen Bank and paying it back weekly.
Hassan and the others who received training from Torongo called the organization, but it did not respond at all. As far as they could tell, Torongo gave money to one or two people and spread the news that they have given money to everyone. Later Hassan saw on TV that that this organization got funding for giving the victims money to set up shops, but the victims didn’t get any of that money.
Sabina said: “I have got 95 thousand from bkash, and I spent some of the money. My husband’s income isn’t enough so I had to start working.”
“After some months of the Rana Plaza incident, I joined this place where I am working now. I work there seven days a week. I don’t get much holidays at this job. But I think I am doing ok here.” Sabina added.
Written by: Mamun
Rahima’s brother Azam Khan, and daughter Bilkis worked in garments factories located in Rana Plaza. BIlkis, and Azam went to work on the fateful day. Bilkis returned alive, but no trace of Azam could be found.
Rahima said, “Azam was 18 years old and Bilkis was 17 years old. I had a good relation with my younger brother. He didn’t even eat anything outside of my home. He ate whatever I cooked. My mother didn’t even call him. He stayed in my home. When I scolded him he replied that no matter how much I scold him, he would always be I with me eat at my house.”
Azam called Rahima ‘Boro Apa’ and she was used to call him Azam and sometimes bhai. He couldn’t eat anywhere outside her home since his childhood. Her mother asked him many times to take food but he refused and went to take food in his sister’s house.
Rahima told us how the story of his brother: “Azamjoined work on 27th day of previous month. This was his first job in garments factory. Earlier, I arranged a job for him in a workshop and a tailoring house. But he could not concentrate on his work there. Then he decided to work in garments factory. He told my daughter to bring him with her. My daughter took him. So many guys seeking a job there were rejected, but he was not. On the next month, he got the salary of three days. But he died before another payment.”
Rahima also remembered that Azam was a sleepyhead, but after getting the job he woke up in the early morning and then ate food and went work. Some days he came home to take food, some days not. Her daughter brought his tiffin and fed him.
Rahima lamented, “If I could find my brother’s body, we could have touched him and buried him and could consol our mind that he got a proper burial.”
Written by Mamun
Rahima last saw her brother on the day before Rana Plaza collapsed. On the morning of the accident he left for work while she was sleeping. Later on that morning she heard that that Rana plaza collapsed.
Rahima narrated the day: “I ran to that place and entered there, but I didn’t get any information about my brother and daughter that time. After two hours volunteers rescued my daughter. I brought her home, and again I went back to that place to search my for my brother.”
Rahima continued the search for 21 days without going home. She checked every dead body and searched for him in hospitals, and any and every other possible place to find him. She also met the workers from an organization named Ordhochondro Field and gave them his photo. But all those efforts were fruitless.
Rahima said: “My father gave blood for DNA test but it did not match with any of the deceased who were found. I searched in every medical. I went to every place where the people of Rana plaza were sent. Still I go to places if anybody says there are some victims of Rana plaza, but can’t find him.”
Rahima lamented, “If I got the dead body we could have touched him and buried him and consol our mind. My parents went paralyzed and can’t move. I let them
stay in home. They can die anytime, and I can’t even give them any consolation. The person passed away who was their income source. We are their daughter and we live in our husband’s houses. They have no way if we don’t look after them. But, how long is it possible for us to look after them?
“I have nothing to say more. I’m always tensed about my parent’s living and survival,” Rahima added.
Written By: Mamun
Rahima’s husband was murdered by miscreants. After that her daughter bilkis and brother Azam had to start working at garments factories in Rana Palza. There Rahima almost lost her daughter when the building collapsed. No trace of Rahima’s brother Azam could be found after the disaster.
Now Rahima and Bilkis have to look after each other because they have no one to look after them. Bilkis was married a couple of months after Rana Plaza collapsed, only to find out that her husband and in-laws were only interested in the money she received as the compensation as a victim of Rana Plaza. Her in-laws tried to put pressure on her family and even sent police to Bilkis’s mother house for the Bkash Sim through which she received the money for compensation.
When Bilkis became pregnant and when torture became unbearable, Bilkis returned to her mother’s house and stayed there since then.
Written By: Mamun
Bilkis got married five months after Rana plaza collapsed, but the the marriage turned out to be an unhappy one as she later found out that her husband only wanted her money which she received as the victim of Rana Plaza accident.
Bilkis said, “My in-laws forced me to give them money. I told them that the money is in my mother’s custody and she is will not give it away.”
Bilkis’s In-laws demanded 45,000 taka in her wedding as dowry, of which 25,000tk was given. BiIkis was supposed to get some ornaments from her in-laws, but they didn’t give her anything so she didn’t give her any more money. But her in-laws still tortured her even after she started working again and giving her in-law all the money she earned.
Her in-laws filed a case and sent police to Bilkis’s home. They sent police to take the documents of Bkash and the SIM card in which I got the money from BKash as compensation. When I returned from work her mother in-law told me that they sent police to her mother’s home. When BIlkis called, her mother asked why she filed a case to which she could only reply that she didn’t know anything.
At the time of wedding BiIlkis was said that her husband is a truck driver, but after wedding she didn’t see him doing anything. At one point, Bilkis went back to her mother’s house. Her husband doesn’t even give her any expense for her daughter.
Bilkis quit working when I was pregnant. Her husband threatens to harm her if she start working again. He also threatens to kill her brother.
Bilkis’s daughter is now 6 months old. BIlkis said, “Everyone wants a better future for their children. My daughter can’t eat anything now. But after few day she will start eating other foods and I have to manage that. I’m really tensed about my daughter’s future.”
Written by Mamun
Bilkis, 19 years old, worked as an operator in Third Tex on the fifth floor of Rana Plaza. She was employed there as an operator and worked for six months. Then, she was 17 years old. After her father was killed, her eldest brother started living separately and another of her brother faced serious trouble looking after their family, Bilkis had to take that job.
Bilkis said she went to work on the day Rana plaza collapsed. On the day before that day, the workers were released from work at 10:00am, but they were not told the reason. Their GM told them to work with their shoes on.
Bilkis recalled: “We went to work on next day. Many of us were reluctant to join the work, but GM sir told us not to worry. He told us to fill the target of previous day. He didn’t even tell us that there was a crack in the second floor. At one point, electricity went away. Then generator was started and just right after that the building collapsed. I started escaping without knowing actually what happened. After that the roof broke down on me, but I was saved because of a machine. It was dark inside and dust was floating like gas.”
“While waiting, we could hear that people were trying to break the wall. After that we came out from that place. When got out of the collapsed building after 2 hours, I lost to my way to home as I was shocked. I was supposed to come to Mojidpur but went to Harapara. Then a person found me and sent me to my home,” Bilkis continued narrating the horrible experience.
“I felt like I would never come out. I remembered my late father. I felt like I was going to my father. We came out along with almost 12-13 persons. Everyone was crying. I just remembered my father that time. I thought I would only see him, nobody else.” BIlkis added.
Bilkis got injury in her leg and head. Now she has problem walking. She still experiences some trauma as the painful experience left a permanent impression on her mind.
Written by Mamun
Amena was one of BIlkis’s colleagues in the garments factory in Rana Plaza. BIlkis and Amena, along with 12-13 persons were rescued from the collapsed building. Bilkis worked in Line A and Amena worked in Line D. They got together when they were trying to come out of the collapsed building.
Written by Mamun
Amena, one of the victims of Rana Plaza disaster, was both lucky because she could get out from there alive, and at the same time she was unlucky because the physical and mental trauma caused by the horrible experience changed her forever.
Amena recounts the incidents of that day: “I was laughing. My line chief told me not to smile. Suddenly, before I knew anything, I started running to escape from that place. I fell under the cutting machine and couldn’t come out. I was crying there.”
Amena saw two injured boy and girl on the floor around her. A big chunk of the roof smashed a leg of that little girl and when that girl was pulled out she got only more injured in that process.
After a while, Amena saw that there line chief died while he was trying to save their GM. She saw another girl hanging from a rod. Another boy was fallen under the pillar and roof. She, along with the help of some other people trapped in there, tried a lot to save him, but they failed. His whole body was stuck. She gave up all the hopes for her life.
Amena said, “A girl suddenly said that we were going to be rescued after 20 days. I called my mother to get mercy from her but her phone was switched off. Then my supervisor took my phone for using its flash to find the way, but when they found a way out, they didn’t come back for us. There were three or four more girls with us.”
Amena and the other girls kept searching a way out and eventually found a narrow opening created by the rescuers on a side of the collapsed building.
Amena said, “The girl who went before me tried to sprint off to the fresh air, but she fell down into a hole and died. Then A rescuer told us to go slowly. He said us to look below and walk. I could not go out looking below. Then he had to carry me out from there.”
All that time under the rubbles Amena I didn’t even notice that a rod was stuck in her leg. She also had to cut her hair to get out of the ruins, and she received serious injury during the process.
Written by: Mamun
After she was rescued from the collapsed Rana Plaza, Amena was taken to her village and went under some treatment. She couldn’t even recognize her mother.
She said, “I became very rude to my mother and aunt. I’m the only daughter of my mother. I have been saved somehow by bless of Allah. A boy went completely mad after seeing the disaster from inside. I was stuck for my hair.
There was no one to cut my hair. So I had to cut my hair.
My head was injured and it was bleeding heavily. Now I can’t remember everything.”
Amena tried to talk about that traumatic experience to this reporter: “I brought that bag on that day. I was used to carry my food in that bag. My brother gave me two mangos. One of my colleagues gave me a chocolate. I carried my food, mangos and chocolate in the bag. I took that bag just before the destruction started. I gave my colleague a mango and he gave me a chocolate. Then I put down that bag. We werecracking jokes and working as well.
“When the building started to fall, I called him and he turned and a pillar fell over him. He was a good man. I started running with my bag. I feel scared when I see that bag. I preserve this bag with care as a memory. My mother has the dress I wore on that day. She doesn’t let me wear that.”
Amena still cries whenever she sees this bag. Here co-workers were almost like her family members.
“My friend died when a rod went through her belly. My line chief was a good man. He never behaved rude with anyone. He taught people about the work if anyone failed. A buyer died too. Many people died there,” said bereaved Amina.
Amena said, “I went to home when my psychological condition started getting worst. I couldn’t even recognize people. I girl died for brain hemorrhage who came out with me. She lived in Rajhashon. She died near the Rajashon Breeze. My mother became scared to see this and took me to my village.”
Amena got medical support from Nobinagar but it’s not provided now. She also got treatment in Center Hospital after she came back from village, and stayed for a month. Then she came back to Dhaka when she got the news of BKash.
But, despite all the promises of a better future Amena’s misery continued.
Written by: Mamun
After surviving Rana Plaza Amena was faced with another trap which could swallow her son up.
Amena said, “A doctor in Enam Hospital wanted to buy my child with Taka two lakh (Tk200,000/-). He called me to open an account from Cantonment. Then I came back. I was in
the eighthmonth of pregnancy at that time. While doing the ultra sonogram, that doctor lied to me that it was not a boy. He saw the baby and asked me for that. I don’t know his name. I agreed to his proposal, as I had no land. I was happy and came to my mother. My mother asked me why I was so happy. I told her everything. She asked me who wanted to buy and told me to take her to that man. When I took her to him, she reproached that doctor for his evil intentions.
“Then we went to another doctor to show my medical report. I informed that doctor about the person who wanted to buy my son. He told that I should have slapped him. This is really unethical to take away the son of a sick woman. My mother cried a lot and took me with her. My son was given birth on 23rd Ramadan of 2014. I might have given them my son if my mother wasn’t there. I couldn’t realize that time what is love. My love increased after I gave birth to my child. My mother knows what love is as she is someone’s mother.”
Now she does not have the ability to build his son’s future. His father can’t work properly. She also does not have any land or any other property. She would do anything if she could find a job, but nobody would give her one.
Amena said, “I don’t know how I will survive. My mother in law tortured me physically. But now she can’t do it for my husband. My mother takes her prayer five times a day and prays for me. So I request you to arrange some support for me. I have no one without my son. My two brothers live separately. No one takes care of my mother. I decided to commit suicide by hanging. What is the point of living if I can’t do anything for my child? My son suffered Pneumonia and I ensured proper treatment for him with the money I got as compensation for being a victim of Rana Plaza.”
Amena tried to commit suicide but her mother didn’t let her do it.
“My mother had a long talk with me at that time. There is no one who can talk like her. I left my son to my mother for three days. Then I brought him again to me. I made a plan to go outside the country. I will go abroad for a work if I get the money. I have to work. I’m not getting any job here, can’t do anything for my child, and my mother is sick,” said the unfortunate woman.
Amena always worries about her family’s future. She thinks If her child was not born then she could have other options left, but now she can’t do anything about her situation.
Amena asked angrily, “What did the government do for us? They did nothing. Why do I have to cry? I didn’t want to commit suicide. Why do we have to die?”
The helpless woman also said she her family will be grateful to the government if it does something to help them.
Written By: Mamun
Currently Amena and her family members are passing their days through unbearable miseries as she has no job and her husband cannot earn well.
Amena said, “My mother cries every day. My grandfather died recently, but I couldn’t go to see him for the last time as I don’t have any money to go there. I could not see my grandfather’s face for the last time. I might also not see my mother when she will die and I have no one in the world except my mother.”
Amena complained: “I would do something if there was no Rana Plaza. Only because of Rana Plaza I’m not getting any job. Everyone treats me physically unfit. Perhaps she is physically unfit as suffers from pain in her waist, hands and legs.
Amena said, “I searched for a job earlier, but could not get one because I was pregnant at that time. Later, I went to Ulail, Rajhashon, Nobinagar for a job. No one took me for a work. Everyone says I’m physically unfit. They tell me to wait till I become fine. They say I would faint during the work. But my mother in law thinks that I don’t search for a job properly.”
Amena said she would never live in Dhaka if she had any scope of living in her village. Her hometown is in Jessore, but she has nothing there. Her step grandmother would not let her family stay in her grandfather’s place, but, still her mother stays there by struggle.
Amena does not have the ability to buy a land in her village, so se is living in Dhaka to find a job. But nothing is happening.
Amena said, “I worked in Messcom in Hemayetpur before I joined in Rana Plaza. I worked there for three years. Then I had an appendicitis operation and I had to take rest for that. I was in rest for six months. Then I started working again.
I worked in garments, including Rana Plaza, for around six years. I can do every type of work. I could work if I get
a job in garments factory, but I’m not sure about my sickness. I might be sick or might not be. All I know is that I can work. I take care of my son whole day. My mother in law will take care of my son if I get any job.”
Amena wants work to survive and to ensure a better future for her son.
“Everybody treated me as sick. So how can we survive? I have a kid and I have to look after him. I have to ensure his better future. I have to work to earn the money for our survival,” said the desperate mother.
The angered victim of the system said the government promised to help them, but they didn’t get any support yet. Amena hoped the government would help her to set up a shop and could give her husband an auto rickshaw.
Amena said, “Even a sewing machine would be a great support for me.”
Written By: Mamun
Amena and her family members carry on from day to day with minimum subsistence. There is no certainty in their life. Everything seems to be an inchoate cloud of promises and frustrated hope. Only time can tell what is in store for her, but surviving a day requires three meals, and Amena does not know how long she can survive this grinding poverty.
Written By: Mamun
Mahinur Akhter is one of the survivors of Rana Plaza collapse. She used to work in Fantom Factory on the 4th floor. On the day of the accident she started working at 8 am, as her supervisor said that if she does not finish her work fast, then they will make them work overtime at night. At 8:45 am she heard a shattering sound and Rana Plaza collapsed.
Mahinur said, ”Suddenly it became dark and I was under some machines. One machine fell on my chest and another one fell on my feet. My toes got cut and I became senseless. Then a guy who was stuck with me gave me some water and I came to senses. I was crying then that guy told me if he lives, then he will make sure I live too. There was another guy who crawled to us, and the two guys broke through the shattered roof and moved the machines and rescued me. It was 8 pm that time.”
At first they made 10 -12 holes in the wall, and then they sent the victims sliding down on a big piece of cloth. After that Mhinur was taken to Rozia Clinic by an ambulance.
MAhinur’s experience in the hospital was not pleasant, as she said, “At first, they left me lying on the floor, but when they noticed that I was shouting with pain, then a man came and took care of my
injured toes. Then he stitched the cut and gave me an injection. After that, another woman came and gave me medicines. I was treated there for 20 days. As my bill was increasing, my family brought me home, but later we got to know that the government is paying for our treatment so I got admitted again.”
Written By: Mamun
Mahinur was 13 when she started working inside Rana Plaza, and by the time the building collapsed she had worked there for 3 years. All her friends were killed by the disaster, but she survived.
Mahinur said, “At first they didn’t want to give me a job at Rana Plaza, because I was under aged for work. Then, a guy (the same guy who rescued me) took me inside the Rana Plaza and assured me that he would give me job no
matter what. He printed a fake document stating that I had proper age, but the supervisor still refused to give me a job. So that guy told him that he will quit his job if I wasn’t given a job. Hearing that, the supervisor agreed to give a job.”
All my of Mahinur’s friends who worked there died. She had 8 friends, who worked together from the first day.
Mahinur has many memories with her friends: “There was a girl named Sumi. She helped me a lot, but she also died in that accident. She was a bit elder than me.”
Mhinur also remembers the man who gave her the job and brought her out on the day of the accident: “I never thought I would survive. I was crying and crying and that guy told me
that if he lives I will be alive too. That guy is now at his village. He can’t work so he can’t even pay his rent. So he went back to his village. His condition is like me too. He is also sick.”
Written By: Mamun
Mahinur survived the disaster, but she still suffers heavily from its consequences. She already lost a finger from her leg and the injuries caused by that accident require further treatment, but she cannot continue the treatment because of the want of money. If she sits for long, then she feels pain in her stomach, ears and legs.
The victim said, “I am still sick. My feet still hurt, I had bleeding inside my ear and a machine dropped on my belly. It still hurts inside. Doctors don’t say what is wrong, but they just say that I need an operation. I needed 40 thousand taka for operation. As I did not have that money they did not do it.
My legs also get swollen sometimes. I cant work now.”
Mahinur tried to start working in another garments factory, but she fainted there while she was working. She can’t get any medical treatments because she does not have any money. She received only 95 thousand taka from bkash.
Despite all her physical difficulties, Mahinur is determined to continue her struggle, as she said, “Now I am not married and I can’t provide my brother with proper education. I have to look after my family. I don’t look at my feet no matter what people tell me, and I don’t think about the accident at all. If I think about those things I can’t survive.”
Written BY: Mamun
Mahinur’s Father died in an accident one month before Rana Plaza collapsed, and her mother Sufia Khatun thought that she had also lost her daughter in the ruins of Rana Plaza, but in the end she found her alive.
Her toes are broken badly.
Sufia remembers that day very clearly, as she said, “On the day Rana Plaza collapsed, we searched for my daughter for all day. We were crying a lot. Suddenly at 11pm one of my relatives called me and said he found her in the hospital. At first I didn’t believe him, then they assured me that it was her.”
When she found Mahinur in the hospital, Mahinur was bleeding. She thought she wont live, but Mahinur survived,
but later Mahinur continued to face many other problems.
She received 70 thousand taka from CRP to set up a grocery shop, but she could not run it for these problems.
Sufia said, “when my daughter had the shop she lived alone. But then I found out that people were causing trouble for her, so I told her has to live with us now.”
Sufia also worries for her daughters health, as she said, “My daughter doesn’t want an operation because we don’t have any money. She lies at home all the time.”
Written By: Mamun