#Inspiration: Bangladeshi Women Working In The Textile Sector Are Graduating And Weaving Their Way To A Better Future. This Is Amazing!
In recent years, the garment industry has grown by leaps and bounds since fast fashion clothes became the norm. I can say I have something to contribute to that. I have spent my hard-earned money on these trendy and “affordable” clothes, without ever wondering how these pieces that look like they’ve been taken right off the catwalk could be so cheap. But then, I wasn’t even that bothered. I looked on fleek and that’s all that mattered, then. However, being a fashion student gave me a peek into the world of garment industry and the much-needed reality check.
The clothes are ridiculously cheap because the textile workers are paying the real price for it. There are no words to capture the plight of these daily wage labourers who work in manufacturing. Extremely low pay, poor working conditions, exhausting jobs and no less than 12-hours shifts; the situation is the same, regardless of the industry they work in. The textile or garment industry is no different. There are serious human rights violation like forceful labour, abuses and unfair pay, and on top of it, there is gender disparity in the management and other unfathomable things.
Since most of these workers are uneducated and come from the poor socio-economic backgrounds, they are an easy target for the fashion biggies to crush and control. Plus, 80% of these workers are women who work as tailors and seamstresses while the men hold the senior positions of the hierarchy, just like every other industry. But fortunately, things are changing, at least in Bangladesh, which happens to be the second largest garment supplier in the world. How you ask?
The Bangladeshi women working in textile are graduating via a free degree programme called Pathways for Promise offered by the Asian University for Women (AUW). The university based in Chittagong aims to educate and generate women leader in Asia so that they can build a better future for themselves, their community and economy of the country as well. They are getting an education and weaving their way to the top.
The university which aims to empower women and create female leaders in different sectors of the society is sponsored by IKEA Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to name a few. They have enrolled underprivileged women not only from the textile sector but also women who are tea pickers and refugees in their programmes. Nirmala Rao, an India-born British academic, serves as the vice chancellor of the university as of now.
One of the first of these 470 disadvantaged women who graduated from the university is a 23-year-old Sadeka Begum who used to work 12 hours a day in a garment factory. She now has an economics degree and is an intern with UNICEF. “I am an example of how education can change a person,” she said.
She wants to improve schooling and childcare for the children of her fellow Bangladeshi textile workers. “Garment workers are the reason why Bangladesh’s economy is doing well. Their children deserve better,” she added.
Then there are women who want to return to the garment industry after they complete their education, not only to have a better job position and pay in the sector but also do something for the industry in return. Dipali Khatun, a student who is going to graduate in December, said that she wants to work for a charity or in the HR so she can bring in change in how things work in the industry and how workers are treated. She said, “I would…ensure that there is no bad behaviour against any garment worker.”
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Another graduate, 23-year-old Yesmin Akther said, “My factory paid me for the last four years and supported me so I could study. Given the chance, I would like to do something good in return.” It’s amazing how these 20-something women already have such a strong sense of responsibility towards their community and fellow workers.
We are no strangers to the unfair practices of these big companies when it comes to exploiting their workers. Not long ago, H&M came under a lot of fire for putting orders on hold, leaving thousands of its workers jobless. The condition is even worse for the workers in Bangladesh. However, they are now starting to fight back and take a stand for their rights. But, having educated women in the management and amongst textile workers will surely have a positive impact in the famous fo exploitative behaviours and change things for good.
It’s great and so inspiring to see these Bangladeshi women finally getting an education and making a mark for themselves in the industry and helping the economy at the same time. Also, seeing women holding senior positions in the garment sector will motivate other women too. This is the beginning of a great change for women in textile industry. We hope, at least.