“I got very scared for the baby as soon as I regained consciousness. I heaved a sigh of relief once the doctor confirmed that the baby was safe.”
A survivor of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, twenty-one-year-old Naznin Akhter Nazma cannot wait to see her new baby. But the agony of the building collapse remains with Nazma as her husband, Jewel, is not by her side when she needs him most. Jewel also worked in the Rana Plaza but was not as lucky as his wife and did not survive the building collapse.
Jewel was working on the second floor while Nazma was on the seventh when the eight-storey building crashed down at around 9am on 24 April 2013.
“I was unconscious for two hours. When I regained consciousness, Jewel had already left me forever,” says Nazma with tears rolling down her cheek.
“On the previous day we heard that a crack had developed on the second floor and the building was not safe. But the supervisor announced that the building was safe and threatened to withhold a month's pay if we didn’t attend work,” says Nazma. “Between us, Jewel and I earned only 10 - 11,000 Bangladeshi taka (US$127 – US$140) per month, so a month’s salary was a big deal for us.”
Jewel and Nazma had been planning to leave their jobs and launch a scrap material business for which Jewel had been trying to arrange a loan. “We had decided to quit our jobs just after receiving our May salary.
My dream was buried with the collapse of Rana Plaza
Having lost everything, Nazma is now living with her uncle and aunt in Savar. Nazma says that the rent for the house is owed for the last five months and the shopkeeper who had supplied some rice and vegetables on credit, is now insisting on the money.
“I lost my father at an early age, and my father and mother-in-law have died, too. I had been taking care of my six-year-old brother and 16-year-old sister for the last year as my mother has gone missing,” says Nazma.
“ActionAid is currently covering my regular medical expenses. But I don’t know how I will manage the expense when my baby is born. I heard that the government and the garment companies will compensate us but I haven’t received anything from them except one month’s salary and 20,000 taka (US$253) from the government for my husband’s funeral,” explains Nazma.
Like Nazma more than 2,500 survivors and the families of 1,132 deceased garment workers have been promised financial and other assistance from the Bangladesh government and the garment industry. But six months on from the Rana Plaza tragedy they are still waiting.