A year on from Rana Plaza
By Yasmin Khatun
One year ago on the 24th of April in the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, the Rana Plaza complex fell to the ground and a year later garment workers still suffer from the ills of our billion pound fashion industry.
In an industry so beautiful and full of glamour, its ugliness came to surface. Over a thousand people lost their lives and more than two thousand were left injured in that single instance. This is not a war with guns or chemical weapons but one of greed – one where the weak are taken advantage of both by mind and physical form.
This building that crumbled had been deemed unsafe before the collapse and all other workers had already been evacuated before the date of the incident but of course those at the bottom of the chain were ordered to return – garment workers, mainly women. The ones who are keeping Bangladesh’s economy afloat.
In the wake of the disaster, we’ve seen factory fire’s and water poisoning but as inspections begin, quarrels continue, who’s to blame? Factory owners, Governments, buyers or consumers for wanting too much, too cheap? – Whilst all of the players try to shed themselves of blame our focus must be on what we in our own positions can do.
As consumers, be conscious of your choices, the most basic of tasks and one that is central to our belief as Muslims – we are living beings on this earth and it is upon us to be conscious of our actions, conscious of our footprint, conscious of the implications of all of this. We can no longer dismiss the £2 pound t-shirt picked up from Primark because it didn’t cost you anything, that cost is upon someone else, somewhere else in the world, someone who is your brother or sister.
Are their lives worth less than the clothing they produce?
Clothing they produce for us, clothing that we purchase from the multi-million pound retailers situated on our high streets, clothing that sometimes cost us less than the price of a sandwich, clothing that we value so little and we care nothing for. Fast fashion, garments that come in and out faster than we can ask ourselves – who made our clothes?
These accidents are not strange for people working within the garments industry, it’s a re-occurring theme and in Bangladesh water poisoning and factory fire’s both preceded and followed this collapse. Educate your mind to be an aware being. As Muslims we should be the most conscious of them all.
Over 1.2 million tons of clothing is buried in landfills each year and assuming that by putting your clothing into a collection bin doesn’t suffice as consciousness. People in Namibia or Pakistan do not need UGG boots and nylon jerseys- they can build and support organic industries with clothing of their own.
Aspiration is not just for those living in the west, allow those that are afar to aspire. Ethics in fashion is not just for middle class women and those with money, it’s an issue of a conscious and thinking mind. I’m not telling you to stop shopping but to be aware of how much you are consuming and how far those implications stem.
Responsibility and a calling to account is a necessary requirement. Transparency for the consumer is essential – ask for your rights to be upheld and don’t be driven into silence, this damage that we’re seeing is a symptom of greed.
Around the world more than 50 countries have come together this year, a year on from Rana Plaza calling for a Fashion Revolution, activists around the world highlighting the importance of this cause.
Aspirational fashion is not just for the consumer but also for the ones who are making our clothes, a year in that re-connect has begun. You are a part of this world and a part of this billion dollar industry with much of the money at the top. But don’t be left behind because if we’re talking about modern day Slaves and if you ask me who these slaves are primarily, I’d most certainly say us.
Our guest editor Yasmin Khatun is a journalist and producer, working in both print and broadcast. At the Islam Channel she produces a news programme called ‘The Report’ and works on investigative documentaries, in her written work she contributes to various publications including The Huffington Post, writing about current affairs, ethics & fashion.