Call for better conditions for Bangladeshi women factory workers
More than 1,000 people have died in last month’s factory collapse in Bangladesh, with many of the casualties women who work in the low-paid and difficult garment trade.
The eight-story Rana Plaza that collapsed on April 24, housed five garment factories and served as the unsafe workspace for thousands of garment workers that make up the majority of the country’s export economy. Hazardous building conditions are common in the Bangladeshi garment industry, evidenced by the May 9th fire that swept through the first floor of another Dhaka factory, killing 8 workers. This follows another fatal factory fire in November 2012 in a nearby building where 117 workers were trapped and died.
Although the garment industry creates a $20 billion profit for the Bangladeshi economy, garment workers continue to be paid low wages, with compensation of $40 US per month. Women make up most of the garment workforce, and more than 80% of the casualties in the Rana Plaza collapse that were women. The amount of young women working in the garment industry has increased dramatically over the past decade due to its promise of skill building and steady wage in the face of a male-dominated, but declining, agricultural sector. Despite the overwhelming amount of women in the industry, men are often promoted to higher-level positions, while women continue to be exploited with long work hours and low wages in the dangerous working conditions.
The Bangladesh garment industry has afforded local women with more economic status and personal independence than ever before but there is still much to be done to achieve equality. Garment workers deserve fair wages, safe working conditions and respect for their human rights.