29 Jan 2014 05:00
Bangladesh's garment industry made headlines on April 24, 2013 because of the devastating collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, a sub district of Dhaka. Even before the death of an estimated 1,100 people last April, there have been incidents before the one making headlines. In November of 2012, a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Bangladesh killed at least 112 people. Charred shorts with the label of one of North America's largest retail brand was found among the remains. Only 5% of textile factories are owned by foreign investors, with most of the production being controlled by local investors. Textiles account for 80% of the country's exports.
Since the most recent deadly incident, it has become extremely difficult to obtain access to factories as most managers are very suspicious of journalists, foreign or local. In January of this year, these portraits were made at a tee-shirt factory work camp near Gazipur, north of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka. The factory is only a three minute walk from the shacks these migrant workers call “home”.
These are the faces of the people, and their families, behind the tag that reads “Made In Bangladesh”. Many children and young adults have already spent nearly their entire life within these camps that are reminiscent of refugee structures. Young women are living alone, often without any family members and even absent from their husband and children. If a woman or husband is lucky enough to have their spouse present, they must reside in different areas of the camp to prevent problems arising between the sexes. Often entire families live within these camps and as the parents split day and evening shifts, because factories run 24 hours, children will take on the responsibilites of caring for the younger.
The stories of these people are very common among the people of Bangladesh. It was estimated in 2013 that approximately 4 million of the country's 156 million people are employed in the $19 billion-a-year industry. It is not only the working conditions that need to be improved, but also the living conditions that these people must go home to, to rest for the next day of work. Their living quarters are nothing more than slums with a few guards and a manager to look over the employees.
These are the faces of those that are injured, and at times die, in poor conditions to clothe the world.