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A history of Modern Slavery

Apr 19, 2020Blog, Fashion Revolution

Slavery is not in our past. It isn’t something that used to happen, and no longer does.

Bangladesh is the second largest garment manufacturer in the world, earning an estimated $20 billion from exporting garments.

In November 2012, a fire broke out across a seven floor factory, killing 112 people just outside the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka. This is one of many factories without proper fire safety.

Shortly after, on 24 April 2013, an eight storey garment factory in the Rana Plaza complex, also in Dhaka, collapsed. There were five garment factories in Rana Plaza, all manufacturing clothing for the western market. Of the 1138 victims, most were young women. Victims were crushed to such a horrific degree, it took DNA samples to identify many bodies.

What’s more, days before the collapse, the building was evacuated due to large cracks appearing in the walls yet the workers were STILL made to return to work

On 8th December 2019 a fire in Delhi, India saw firefighters have to use gas cutters to break through the iron bars that trapped the dying workers inside a school bag factory. The police claimed that many workers would have to sleep on the factory floor as it wasn’t safe to travel home in the dark, as they are made to stay until the garment production targets have been met. The youngest death of a worker was 13 years old. According to Microfinance Opportunities’ Garment Worker Diaries, 12% of garment factory workers in India reported having seen at least one fire in their current workplace.

This is about ethics being surpassed by systemic monetary greed; on the part of factory operators exploiting workers – some even being children – on the part of retailers and buyers, demanding lower costs, despite knowing with crystal clarity that their demands can only be met by child and sweat shop labour.

Fashion Revolution believes that positive change can happen if we all think differently about fashion and demand better. It campaigns for a cleaner, safer, fairer, more transparent and more accountable fashion and textiles industry. It wants fashion to become a force for good – an  industry that values people and planet over profit and growth. 

Human rights abuse and environmental degradation are endemic. What if your clothes are made in an exploitative way; how are you to know? A lot of brands don’t know who makes their clothes, so how are we supposed to make informed purchases? This needs to change. We need to know who makes our clothes and under what conditions. We need to be able to scrutinise what it is we’re paying for. 

Being continuously vigilant and embracing ethical, sustainable and circular ways of shopping…whether you are a consumer, brand or corporate – your actions count; we have to end the greed that allows the fashion value chain to dehumanise even children, by either boycotting, lobbying or just by demanding transparency from brands. Read our blog here on how you can identify brands that are responsibly manufacturing your garments.

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