Any day now in Bangladesh twenty-one-year-old Naznin Akhter Nazma will give birth to her first child. What should be a happy moment is also surrounded by sorrow. Nazma was working on the seventh floor of the Rana Plaza when the factory collapsed on 24 April killing 1133 people. Nazma was pulled out alive but her husband, who was working on the second floor, died.
Television cameras filmed as rescue workers tried to reach those trapped amongst the twisted metal and concrete. Journalists unpicked the story of the garment workers who were working in the factory and the multinational companies who sourced clothes from the building. As the story of inadequate building regulations and unsafe working conditions unravelled, the final survivor was pulled from the rubble seventeen days later. Then what happened?
The rest of the world returned to the high street to buy cheap clothes, the television cameras moved on to the next story and multinational companies made little effort to keep their promises to reform the industry. The families of those who lost their lives and the survivors of the collapse were left alone to start working out what to do next. Six months on they are still awaiting compensation and are struggling to cope with the devastation that was left behind. ActionAid carried out a survey of two-thirds of the victims and found that 92% of survivors had not returned to work and almost half the people had mounting debts.
ActionAid’s shocking research helped to push the story of Bangladesh’s garment workers back onto news agenda around the world on the six-month anniversary of the factory collapse. Nazma’s story was retold helping to amplify the voices of thousands like her whose lives were destroyed on that day and the thousands still working in terrible conditions in garment factories around the world.
I can’t help worrying what the news articles will be saying in six more months? Will Nazma have been compensated and be able to return to work and provide for her new baby? Will the global brands and retailers, the factory owners and governments have started taking more responsibility for the welfare of the workers? And will we, as consumers carry on buying clothes without knowing who made them or caring that people are risking their lives to make them? We all need to keep putting pressure on the industry and governments to make changes that will keep people like Nazma and her baby safe.
Read, listen and watch the highlights of the coverage
In Bangladesh the story was in the highest read daily newspaper and made headlines on BBC World. Across Europe the story was told in the Netherlands (Volkskrant) the UK (ITV), Ireland (Rte), Italy (24x7 Liberio) and Denmark (Berlingske Nyhedsbureau) and in Australia the story featured in over 100 regional publications and on ABC.