(A Documentary film on the garment girl workers of Bangladesh)
length : 60 minutes
format : DV Cam
photography : Anwar Hossain
editing : Mahadeb Shi
sound : Nahid Masud
music: Syed Shabab Ali Arzoo
research and co-producer : Shafiur Rahman
year of production : 2007
script & direction : Tanvir Mokammel
If you have jeans and t-shirts in your wardrobe, chances are some of them were made in Bangladesh. Indeed Bangladesh is now a major player in the global clothing trade. Starting from scratch in the early 70s it is now a multi-billion dollar business. It employs around 2 million people— 85 percent of whom are women. In total, up to ten million livelihoods depend on this industry.
This phenomenal rise came about because of the protection afforded by the Multi-Fibre Agreemnt of 1974. Basically that allowed new producing countries to come into the scene and excluded the "old" producing countries. In terms of hard currency, the industry is now Bangladesh's most important one bringing in around 76 percent of the country's total export earnings.
But the story is not all rosy. There have been about three thousand deaths in garment factories through fires and collapsed buildings. Wages are the lowest of any textile producing country, and workers have a long list of complaints besides wages, health and safety.
In May and June of 2006 worker frustration resulted in serious rioting and the destruction of property. Some people were killed. Bangladesh Rifles were deployed. It was a wake up call for this industry.
Consumers in the West are also waking up and consciousness around the issue of "sweatshops" is much greater. There is pressure on the retailers to engage in what is called "ethical trading"— a demand for buyers to ensure the factories they source from are compliant with the national and international labour codes.
Bengal once had a vibrant and renowned textile industry in the 17th and 18th centuries. Now that it has again risen, is it prepared to sustain itself in the future and to face the many challenges international trade poses?