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I belong to the country that is the second leading exporter for ready-made garments to high fashion brands from the western world. That indeed quantifies the success of  Bangladesh (reaffirmed by the recent growth of the GDP of Bangladesh to 6.5%) on the scale of development progresses made, however, in the course of enjoying the luxury of wearing the trendiest clothing in the cheapest possible price, we forget to ask ourselves-how are these clothes so ridiculously cheap? These clothes are cheap because 3.2 million people in 5,000 factories in Bangladesh are working 16 hours a day, earning barely $2-$4 to make the trendiest clothes available in stores within 4 days after the order has been placed by the fast fashion brands! Most importantly, the factories they work in is literally life threatening for them.

The greatest reference to that would be the collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Rana plaza was one of the major producers of five major fast fashion clothing brands of USA and Europe. On April 23rd, 2013, 3,639 workers who were working in Rana Plaza, discovered a major crack in the factory building. Next day, the workers pledged to stop working in the complex given the threatening working conditions. However, what the owner of the factory had to offer was even worse than that. The owner threatened the labor force of taking their jobs away that had paid them 22 cents per hour and $10.56 a week for a working shift of 90-100 hours a week; which essentially allowed these socially and economically excluded people to feed their dependent family members at length twice a day. Within an hour after the forced workers started working in the factory, the entire factory collapsed whereby 11,38 workers died with thousands of others being critically injured, 200 of them still remain missing! Even after three and a half years, I still believe, the workers did not die only because of the collapse of the factory and its cracked walls, they died also because of the collapse of humanity and social dignity for the under privileged people of the society, around the world. They died because, when consumers like us throw away the cheap price tags from the trendy branded clothes labeled “Made in Bangladesh”, they never ask themselves-who made the clothes so cheap for them!

200 people still remain missing even after 3.5 years of the Rana Plaza collapse

200 people still remain missing even after 3.5 years of the Rana Plaza collapse

While some of the major brands sub-contracting from Rana Plaza in quest for “cheap labor”, denied of their involvement with Rana Plaza, some of them actually pledged to come forward and ensure a better working condition for the millions of other workers working in factories with poor working conditions. But what still remains the same is the low wage and social and economic exclusion of these labor force. What still remains a concern is that, this labor force remains trapped within their informal economy lacking the basic human rights and dignity, as a victim to modern day slavery, despite being key role players in the private sector!

According to the World Economic Forum’s “The Inclusive Growth and Development Report 2017”, my country, Bangladesh has lately ranked 36 out of 79 in developing countries ODI and primary reasons have been narrowed down to two- (i) rampant corruption and (ii) massive employment in the informal economy. These large number of labor trapped in the informal economy are, not surprisingly enough, the major contributors to the 6.5% rate of increased GDP in Bangladesh. When we swipe on the screens of our iPhones looking for the news of Google’s launch of “AI venture capitalists”, to imagine someone living under the same sky, inside the informal boundary, without the access to the basic needs like food, shelter and education-simply seems uncannily true! The analogy reflects upon the massive disparity and unequal stature of our society. Living under $4 a day essentially indicates that, 1.6 Billion of these people around the world are not only living in the bottom of the pyramid (BOP), but also live in hunger, without access to education, lack good health, have no access to clean water and sanitation and clean energy and perhaps the most important, live without a decent job and economic growth. To be more succinct, half of our sustainable development goals are often times negatively influenced for being positively correlated with one major SDG- lack of social and economic inclusion in the society.

The world’s best of the policy makers claim that the solution to this issue can be simply leveraging the power of the private sector that creates 90% of the jobs in the world and the Asia pacific at large, yet three-fourth of these jobs are indecent (e.g. in factories like Rana Plaza or under sub-contractors) and exclusive from the government’s umbrella! The creation of jobs mayhap successfully takes care of the development concerns of the world. But what about sustainability of that development? As smart global citizens of the 21st century, if we think from the development perspective, creation of jobs is simply not enough! The society needs creation of decent and inclusive jobs. It is undeniable that the private sector has an enormous contribution to the revenue growth around the world, however, the contributors and key actors behind the curtains-the marginalized labor force need to be acknowledged as a crucial part of the development value chain to ensure an inclusive growth in the world. Therefore, partnering up with the private sector with an intention of meeting the SDG 8 can essentially make SDG 1-7 much more easily and strategically attainable!

We should also consider that, the architecture of the private sector in the world should be built on the foundation of promoting ethical consumption in the upper tiers of the society. As consumers, our ignorance and negligence towards the background stories behind the products and its value, kill thousands of labor in factories like Rana Plaza and essentially make businesses like fashion the second most polluting business in the world.

Ethical fashion is a growing revolution around different parts of the world

Ethical fashion is a growing revolution around different parts of the world

In the decadence of living trendy lives, we ignore that our lifestyle is labelling thousands of hard working and skilled people as “cheap labor” simply because we as consumers and brands as buyers pay these invaluable labor force a “cheap value” for their skills and hard work.

In a nutshell, if lack of social and economic inclusion is the deepest black flag towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, private sector businesses, driven towards the motivation of sustaining the development around the world-is undoubtedly the ‘white’ flag resembling “peace”. It’s time we become not only responsive but also self-enforcing and smart at aiming towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It’s time we not only work for development and peace building around the world but also come together to sustain that, leveraging the power of global partnership. It’s high time we take social and economic inclusion as a real agenda rather than simply a topic for discussion. It’s time we start rethinking about the real value of “cheap labor” and change our consumption pattern into an ethical and responsive one. It’s time we partner up and invest in ‘peace’ to “grey” out the ‘deepest black’ to the best of our abilities, for a more peaceful world and a better tomorrow.

25 comments

  1. Md. Omar Faruk

    An Outstanding article written by a Young girl from Bangladesh. I must congratulate her for such indepth study of the subject and the Recommendations. Go ahead dear Tasneem Omar Ava.

    1. Thank you so much!!

  2. Md. OmarFaruk

    The article is OUTSTANDING. Well done Ava.

  3. Tameem Ahmed Chowdhury

    A well thoughtout write up. Western world always advocate for higher salary and well being of garments workers but less focused on howu much buyers pay for their trendy order. This article should serve as an eye opener. A balanced approach is recommended to address the issue encompassing both buyers and sellers for the greater emancipation of garments workers.

    1. Thank you so much for the appreciation!!

  4. S.Alam

    This article will be an eye opener for the People of advanced countries who are using garments of Bangladesh.

    1. Thank you so much!!

  5. Md. Ferdous Khan

    A lot of people failed at what you accomplished, simply because they were busy finding problems while you were busy finding solutions. Well done.

    1. Felt so hopeless looking for answers to my quot.ienss..until now.

      1. I completely acknowledge it’s very challenging to spread such a message around the world. But this is also true that, when there are people who choose to deny the Rana Plaza incident, there are also people like you who look up for answers to make a difference.

        That is undoubtedly a big step towards development!!

    2. Thank you so much for the appreciation!!

    3. Thank you so much!!

  6. Mizanur ur Rahman Chowdhury

    An informative , well versed and outstanding article written by our beloved Young leader AVA focusing on various issues specially cheap labor. And also referred the issue of Rana Plazza very intelligently.
    AN EXCELLENT WRITE-UP. Congratulations Ava.

    1. Thank you so much for your appreciation!!

      This is undoubtedly an encouragement for me to be motivated and work for the cause of establishing SDGs in the private sector practices.

  7. Yahya Khwaja from Calgary, Canada

    If few people would take initiative like her to come forward with time, courage and research to let world know about what the exploitation and abuse going around these helpless workers ….the world leaders could take some positive actions to stop this unethical practices against the humanity.

    1. I absolutely agree with you on this. I believe EDD17 has been an enormous platform to share this message to the world leaders and the to the wile at large!

      Thank you so much for the appreciation.

  8. md aminul huq

    commenting as a critic is easy when one doesn’t care to take responsibility. being in the same industry, for about a decade now, I felt how scared we are to share the same truth with our global partners/valued clients/buyers only out of the fear that they may turn their faces from us.

    these days, enforcement of various compliances are enormous mostly without buyers’ participation. this recent phenomenon of enforcement is suffocating the entrepreneurs to near death, who are spending millions of hard earned dollars, and ‘cheap labor’ force is consequentially being further marginalized !!

    ava, the young leader, deserves great appreciation for her insight in choosing a burning subject so carefully avoided by our global partners/brands.

    also a special thanks to ava for her courage to intelligently ‘Bell the CAT’ in the right forum.

    keep traversing.
    our heartfelt prayers are with you.

  9. md aminul huq

    commenting as a critic is easy when one doesn’t care to take responsibility. being in the same industry, for about a decade now, I felt how scared we are to share the same truth with our global partners/valued clients/buyers only out of the fear that they may turn their faces from us.

    these days, enforcement of various compliances are enormous mostly without buyers’ participation. this recent phenomenon of enforcement is suffocating the entrepreneurs to near death, who are spending millions of hard earned dollars, and ‘cheap labor’ force is consequentially being further marginalized !!

    ava, the young leader, deserves great appreciation for her insight in choosing a burning subject so carefully avoided by our global partners/brands.

    also a special thanks to ava for her courage to intelligently ‘Bell the CAT’ in the right forum.

    keep traversing.
    our heartfelt prayers are with you.

    1. Thank you so much. I truly appreciate your support for the idea of standing against the current practice of labor employment around the world.

      I believe we have the capacity to make changes when we stand together.

      Thanks for the encouragement, this will undoubtedly keep me motivated towards establishing and promoting SDG 8 in the labor industry and private sector.

  10. Md Iqbal Hossain

    Congratulations. Very good write up.

    1. Thank you so much!!

  11. S M Farhad

    An excellent article in finding out the root causes of the problem and highlighting the importance of humanity.

    It gives an insight as to where is the focus of the so called advanced community.

    Go ahead.

    1. Thank you so much!! I want my message to be the voice of the underprivileged. I believe together we all can make positive changes towards the SDGs. Best wishes.

  12. It is not only in speeches that you rock but also when it comes to writing. The punchlines that you wrote and the flow of the article are amazing. Such a pleasure to see someone so deeply committed to reduce inequalities and give a voice to the voiceless.

    1. Thank you so much Leonardo!! Fellow Young Leaders like you are truly an inspiration to learn more and be more dedicated towards making greater impact for for a more developed world!! I’m glad I could share my message to the world at such an amazing platform like #EDD17 with amazing young leaders like you.

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