Sweatshops And Child Labour In Bangladesh

Imagine waking up in a small windowless factory. Lying on the concrete. Knowing you have a 16-hour working day ahead and still being appreciative that you have a job. Worldwide, 126 million children work in sweatshops and have to face hazardous conditions, beatings, humiliation and sexual violence by their employers. A ‘sweatshop’ is an organisation that violates two or more labour laws according to the International Labor Rights Forum. Many well-known companies such as Walmart, Nike, Adidas and Gap famously use sweatshops and child labour. Although these workers receive a horrifying payslip, it does provide them with a slight income to try to help them provide for their families who are struggling to survive one day at a time. The children spend their whole lives facing pain and torture and have no quality of life. They live out their short lives in a dirty, windowless factory where they sit on the concrete being forced into hours of monotonous, uninspiring work which has disastrous health effects. This gruelling work disastrously kills thousands a year. According to ASSL League, many Nike sweatshop workers die by the age of 15 thus showing how dangerous their work is.

Since 1990, more than 400 workers have died and several thousand more have been wounded in 50 major factory fires. In April 2013, a devastating accident killed over one thousand garment workers and destroyed the lives of thousands more. The factory was previously evacuated due to extreme structural concerns but workers were forced to return back to work the next day. An anonymous worker explained that she and all the other workers comprehended the issues but were ‘threatened with sticks’. She further added "there were gang members holding sticks standing in front of the main entrance gate threatening that they would beat us with sticks and break our bones if we didn't work that morning. We were frightened and had no choice but to go into work," This highlights the corporate greed that many workers face. The owner of Rana Plaza knew it was dangerous to allow work but yet he did it anyway as missing a day of work was somehow worth thousands of deaths to him. The conditions these workers have to face daily are not only ignominious and horrifying but they are exceptionally dangerous.

The lack of regulation in Bangladesh means a factory may have as many as 15 sewing machines in a room with no emergency exits or fire safety measures. One factory in Dhaka keeps fire exits kept locked and vital health and safety checks being manipulated. The child labourers work over six days a week, only receiving one-half day per week, where they get the chance to be ‘normal’ children. However, the majority of the children live in the factories with no quality of life, shocking sanitation and very little nutrition. Some of the 3,500 workers at Eastex Garment, in the capital Phnom Penh, claimed they were forced to work on illegal short-term contracts without sick pay and they declared their wages were cut if they arrived more than five minutes late for work. Besides the fact that these factories are dirty and cramped, these children are denied education and healthcare. Children in these poverty-stricken countries are either sold into slavery or they have to work to earn money for their family. Without this meagre income, many families simply could not survive.

The majority of garment workers in Bangladesh earn less than minimum wage, set at 3,000 take a month (approximately £25), far below what is considered a living wage, calculated at 5,000 taka a month (approximately £45). This insufficient amount of money is not enough for a family to survive so therefore we should tackle the problem of unfair wages. Pig! Whore! Dog! These are all common names for female workers to be called during their sixteen-hour shift. These names are particularly degrading for Muslim women. Each day, these vulnerable women face the harsh conditions and possible punishment from their employers but the horrific possibilities do not end there.

The risk of being sexually harassed and sexually abused lingers. In one case, in a Bangladesh factory, a female tailor said she was grabbed by the hair and punched. She was the told ‘you whore, your caste people should be kept where the slippers are kept.’ In another case, two undercover workers reported that verbal and physical abuse place takes place frequently. Many child workers are reduced to tears on a daily bases for not working quickly enough. A worker at the Taiwanese-operated Pou Chen plant in Sukabumi said she was kicked by a supervisor last year after making a mistake while cutting rubber for soles. She then declared ' we're powerless, our only choice is to stay and suffer, or speak out and be fired.'

Other than the physical and verbal abuse, the women face gender discrimination. Many female workers have reported that the right to maternity leave is not upheld by employers. Regular pregnancy tests are mandatory in sweatshops as the women are forbidden to have children. Sabaira Begum was let go from her job as a garment worker in 2003 as a result of her having a child. She then had to wait six years with no pay until she could return to work on the bases that she could bring her young daughter to work for free for the company.

18 March 2020
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