How can fashionistas, and fashionistos, become more informed on the rights of garment workers, the violations of those rights, and the general sources of their clothes?
I think a good place to begin is by doing some research about how your clothes are made. A platform such as yours is an amazing resource for this. If people want to get more specific information about a brand, then a good starting point is reading the ethos of a company and what they stand for. Know how transparent they are about their production and how much information do they share about their garments.
Many factors come into the fold for consideration within this movement. It is international, moderate in size, and growing. Tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse, was the largest garment factory accident in history with over 1,000 dead and more than 2,500 injured. Others were the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911 and the Pakistan Garment Factory Fires in 2012. This implies human rights, worker rights, and, in many instances, women’s and children’s rights. How can individuals, designers, fashion industries, and consumers begin to work to implement those rights so that these vulnerable populations in many countries of the world have better quality of life?
I truly believe that the longer a supply chain gets, the more difficult it becomes to have a good control over the rights of the workers. As designers, we should always look for ways to keep the supply chain as small as we can. Visit the factories and meet the makers of your designs. Ask questions about worker rights and how much they are getting paid, and then do some research about the actual cost of living for workers in that country yourself. We cannot simply rely on the numbers reported by local governments because most often those do not give a true picture of how much it costs for a worker to sustain a livelihood for a family.
Women and children are the majority of the exploited and violated work forces. What about the status of women’s and children’s rights as well?
It is true that women and children are often the most exploited and sadly most often it is those women and children who are going through some extreme hardships in life who have no choice and are forced to give in to the abuse. The recent news about Syrian refugee children being used by Turkish garment factories is an example of this. There needs to be more accountability from these factories, especially the smaller second tier ones – where the abuse most often goes unreported.
Children are the most vulnerable population. Women tend to have less status than men in societies including the right to decent working conditions, decent pay, to vote, to acquire an education, and to be self-sufficient. What is the relationship between the need to implement women’s rights and children’s rights, which have existed for a long time, in this domain of the working world? Child labour and slavery are problems – major ones. These include children throughout the world. Tens of millions of children in the case of child labour and a few million for child slavery. How can individuals get the word out about these other rights violations?
First of all, we have to put more pressure on the bigger brands who have the production quantity to bring a change in this industry. These companies have the power to reach out and influence local governments to improve worker conditions. Additionally, question every purchase you make. Educate yourself on where what you are buying was made, and by whom. What are the ethos of the company you are choosing to buy from? As consumers, we can do this by our dollar and by choosing to support fair trade companies across all industries. Share your knowledge with friends and family, because what I have found out in my own experience is that it’s not that people don’t care about the rights of others, but they don’t know about its negative impact.
How can individuals, designers, fashion industries, and consumers begin to work to implement those rights so that these vulnerable populations in many countries of the world have better quality of life?
It is very important to be well aware of the culture of the country where you are operating. Being well acquainted with the culture gives us a lot of information and ability to pick up on things and people who can be exploited and are vulnerable. We, for example, operate in the remote villages of Pakistan where men in the same field of work feel that women don’t deserve to be paid as much as them because they work out of their homes and don’t have much responsibility. Being aware of this, we not only make sure that the women are paid equivalent as their male peers, but also educate and empower them to value themselves and their work.