Slaves to fashion was created as part of Tearfunds Emerging Influencers programme, and is run in partnership with them. It was born out of a growing discontent about how we, in the western world, know less and less about the production and manufacture of the goods we buy, and the people who make them; such as Shima.
Shima left school at 14 because her family could not afford to keep a growing girl who was doing nothing more than studying. She travelled away from home, to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and found a job in a clothes factory to try and provide for her and her family. Shima’s job was to stitch buttonholes on jeans and jackets, with many of the clothes she made ending up in UK stores. The fans to cool the workers in this factory were broken, and rubbish piled up on the window ledges.
After work Shima would return to her home in a dangerous slum area, sleep, and then returns to work, having no time for anything else. Dhaka slums are not a safe place, in a single month 31 female garment workers were raped as they walked from their factory shifts to their homes in the slums.That’s roughly one women raped per day.
She would work 12 hour days, sometimes more, six days a week. And now, after working at the factory for 3 years, she earns only £4.40 a week - just half of what would be needed to afford lifes basic essentials such as food, healthcare and accommodation.
(Story from ‘Lift the Label by David Westlake and Esther Stansfield)
Stories like this began to break our hearts, and we felt compelled into action, to ensure that people like Shima could start to live the lives they deserve.
We believe that workers unions can play a huge part in this, by giving a voice to the workers, and an ear to their issues.
This is why we are petitioning River Island, not because we see them as the problem, but because we believe they can be part of the solution. By ensuring that workers in the factories River Island use are free to unionise, and are given a voice, we believe we will see positive change in their workplace.