International Women’s Day is About Honoring Women
When I worked as an ESL instructor in Bratislava, Slovakia from 2006 – 2010, every year on March 8th, some of my students would come to class and give me a box of chocolates (Merci was my favorite!) or a bouquet of flowers (those students got a lot of bonus points)!
Being a Canadian, I had heard about International Women’s Day. But it was when I lived in Europe that I was acknowledged on this day for being a woman by these kind gestures from my former students. I’m forever grateful to them for showing me how some customs are celebrated in other parts of the world.
So as International Women’s Day is approaching, I’d like to acknowledge all the women in the world who don’t think they have any human rights, because I’m here to tell you that you do. Let’s take a closer look at the mistreatment of female garment workers and sex workers in Cambodia and Bangladesh.
Sex Trafficking to Garment Workers In Cambodia
Cambodian women are being abused in the garment industry and even subjected to prostitution. Check out the facts below.
- According to Human Rights Watch, “Garment and textile exports are crucial for the Cambodian economy. In 2014, garment exports reportedly totaled $5.7 billion. The industry is a major source of non-agrarian employment, particularly for women.” Cambodian garment workers have reported being overworked without compensation, beaten, and subjected to prostitution.
- Human Rights Watch reported “Women dominate Cambodia’s garment sector, making up an estimated 90 to 92 percent of the industry’s estimated 700,000 workers. These numbers do not include the many women engaged in seasonal home-based garment work.” Most of these women are earning the average wage of $75 – $80 month as stated in Figure 1. The wage is not enough to take care of their housing nor buy food to feed their children.
- There are 500,000 of garment workers accounted for in Cambodia. 80% of them are women and living in poverty.
So how does this affect you as a retail consumer? Tons! So before you buy a shirt or dress at H&M or Old Navy for $10, I urge you to look at the tag, and if it says “Made in Cambodia,” put it down and walk away. Most likely, a Cambodian woman made that shirt or dress and is starving right now and can’t afford to take care of her family.
This is a huge problem that affects everyone because cheap clothing comes at high price. You might think that you’re saving a few bucks by buying a dress for $10, but, in fact, you are contributing to slave labor by women in Cambodia who are working under harsh conditions. Stop buying cheap clothing, it was made in misery.
Who Are The Sex Workers Turned Garment Workers in Cambodia?
Courtesy of Vice News, this documentary is worth watching if you want to see what women go through as sex workers, then garment workers. It follows an anti-trafficking unit working with the Human and Juvenile Protection Department in Cambodia.
As you can see, there are two sides to every story. Not all Cambodian women want to be rescued by the anti-trafficking unit because they claim the garment worker conditions are far more worse than what they receive working as a sex worker. Where is the sense in all this? All these women are being subjected to forced labor and poor wages.
Sex and Slavery in Bangladesh
Women and children in Bangladesh are living in very harsh conditions. More than 80,000 individuals under the age of 17 are working in tanneries for leather exporting to US, Canada, and Europe. The life expectancy of a tannery worker in Bangladesh is 50 years.
Again just like in Cambodia, these children cannot afford to live on the basic minimum wage and some of their mothers – 1, 500 of these women and girls in the video below Sex, Slavery, and Drugs in Bangladesh have resorted to prostitution and human sex trafficking.
What is the most disturbing about the sex trafficking going in Bangladesh is that young girls are being forced into prostitution and drug use. As women, we shouldn’t tolerate the subjection of girls to child sex trafficking.
What Can You Do?
There’s so much you can do to combat human sex trafficking locally and overseas of women.
By reading this article, you’re getting educated about the harsh conditions women in Cambodia and Bangladesh face every day. The more you educate yourself about the mistreatment of women overseas in the garment-making industry, you can make a difference in someone’s life by simply reaching out to local non-profit organizations that assist women who are being trafficked or enslaved.
As I stated earlier, if that $10 dress at Old Navy seems too good to be true, it probably is! Buying cheap clothing comes at a high price. The moment you stop shopping at retailers that employ child workers and women abroad in South East Asia, you’re taking a stand!
Remember: every time you pick up a $5 shirt from H&M and Walmart, it was probably made by a garment worker in Cambodia or Bangladesh. And it’s usually a woman working long hours without the proper wages to support her own family. So start buying sustainable clothing and you’ll be a responsible shopper! To start shopping responsibly, click here.
Spread Awareness by Volunteering
Lastly, volunteering and giving back to the international community is the best way support women’s rights. Why not volunteer with us at Trusted Clothes? We’re always accepting volunteers and you do anything creative. It’s a chance for you to help women all over the world, while expressing your hidden talents. For example, you can write an article about how you’ve changed your shopping habits. Or you can do a VLOG and post it on the Trusted Clothes Facebook and Twitter pages. You can choose any medium, just as long as it’s for a good cause, we’ll back you up!
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