Six months ago I wrote about a lovely young woman who was waiting to give birth to her first born child. That woman was Nazma and she, and her unborn child, survived the collapse of the Rana Plaza clothing factory on 24 April 2013. I am pleased to tell you that a few weeks after I told her story she gave birth to a beautiful and healthy son named Junayed, after his father. Junayed’s father was also working in the Rana plaza when it collapsed but he unfortunately didn’t survive - leaving his twenty-one year old wife and his son on their own. She hopes to start a business but with no compensation and a small son to look after she is worried about her future.
Nazma’s story is echoed by many survivors and families of those that were killed. Like Rihan, who is just 17 months old and lost both of his parents in the collapse. Then there is Sajal who survived the collapse but has been in constant pain ever since - so much so that he has had to leave the last three jobs he was offered because of the pain he faces. For these individuals and hundreds like the events of that tragic day still impact on their lives. While many were offered small amounts of support in the immediate aftermath they have received little, if any support since.
In October last year the Bangladeshi government, trade unions, brands and non-governmental organisations agreed to the Rana Plaza Arrangement, a mechanism for collecting contributions and distributing compensation so survivors and families of those that died. It was agreed that US$40m was needed in order to provide compensation. So far just US$15.3m has been contributed by brands, which simply is not enough. Brands need to pay up so that these individuals can start to rebuild their lives, get the continuing medical support they need and feed their families. Clothing companies are making massive profits while the victims of the disaster are facing mounting debts. It’s just not fair.
We will continue to tell the stories of the survivors as we demand that companies 'pay up' but when that battle is over the stories won’t end. There is so much to be done in clothing factories across the world to ensure that the people working hard to provide us with cheap clothing work in safe factories and are paid a living wage.