The fourth largest industrial disaster in history happened on the 24th of April 2013 in Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza building collapsed, killing 1,138 people and injuring another 2500. There were five garment factories in Rana Plaza all manufacturing clothing for big global brands. The victims were mostly young women.
Ever since that moment, folks from all over the world have come together to use the power of fashion to change the world.
Have you ever wondered who made your clothes? How much they’re paid, and what their lives are like?
Before our clothes hit the stores they go on a long journey. From the hands of cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, sewers to designers and tailors. About 75 million people work in the clothing industry – and 80% of them are women between the ages of 18 and 35.
And most of them live in poverty. They are unable to afford basic needs. Most of them are exploited, abused verbally or physically, working in unsafe conditions with very little wage.
Today, people suffer as a result of the way fashion is made, sourced and consumed. Companies need an increase in sales and profits in order to be successful — but certainly, not at the expense of peoples’ working conditions.
If you are a person who shops and wears fashion (yes, that’s almost everyone), or you work in the trade along the supply chain somewhere, or if you’re a policymaker who can have an impact on legal requirements, you are responsible.
WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?
In order to achieve change, we need to address three key things according to researchers Rebecca Earley and Kate Goldsworthy.
- MODEL — The business of fashion
In spite of the higher cost of making clothes, the price we pay for our clothing is cheaper than ever before. The whole fashion industry needs a paradigm shift, improving the way we produce and consume clothes.
- MATERIAL — People
The harsh reality is that basic health and safety measures do not exist for many of the people working in fashion’s supply chains. The legal minimum wage in most garment-producing countries is rarely enough for workers to live on. Treating people better is definitely an urgent ask.
- MINDSET — Shifting the way we think about fashion
The way we consume clothing has changed a lot over the past 20-30 years too. We buy more clothes than we used to and spend less on them. A century ago, we spent more than half our money on food and clothes, today we spend less than a fifth. As a society, we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did just 20 years ago. Every time we buy something that costs less than we think it should, we are implicit in the impacts of that transaction.
Oasis India aims to take in local women who are vulnerable to the fashion supply and value chain. Providing real work that helps them grow in confidence and is economically impactful.
We want to take an active role in reducing poverty in our local communities and create sustainable livelihoods through our production unit at Chennai (Tamil Nadu, India) and by creating a sustainable stream of income.
We subscribe to the 10 principles of Fairtrade, including never employing children, paying fair wages, and ensuring safe and good working conditions for all the women who work with us.
What can you and I do?
There are several ways you and I can ensure we wear ethical clothes and thus help to eliminate slavery and forced labour, especially of children.
First, we can become informed, and teach others about the expanding use of child slavery.
We must become aware of companies that sell products produced by child labour, place pressure on these companies to change their practices through direct contact and reduce the demand for their products if they are unwilling to change.
If you are an investor, the number one thing you can do is research. Take a strong look at the labour practices of companies you are looking to invest in.
Ultimately, we need to break our addiction to the need for speed and volume. We need to realise the true cost of our cheap bargains. We need to buy less, buy better and keep asking questions about the realities behind what we’re purchasing. We must love the clothes we already own and work harder to make them last.
Donate to our latest campaign No Child Should Be A Slave to help us fight child slavery.
By Divya Nathaniel, Social Enterprise Coordinator, Oasis India