On two year anniversary of tragic factory collapse, feminist actions sweep globe as protesters gather in Bangladesh capital
by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams
Marking two years since the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, protesters are converging on the country’s capital and feminist actions are sweeping the globe on Friday, to honor the lives of the 1,138 people—most of them women—who perished in the tragedy and to demand justice for those they left behind.
News outlets are reporting that demonstrators have gathered in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, the city where the Rana Plaza factory was located. Among them are survivors of the tragedy and family members of the deceased, who say that, two years later, they still have not received adequate compensation.
“I haven’t received any compensation from the government yet,” Nilufar Begum, a worker wounded in the factory collapse, told Euronews. “I can’t support my family, my children can’t go to school. I’m crippled forever.”
Meanwhile, feminist actions are slated for time zones across the world, from Kenya to Turkey to the Philippines to the United States.
“We make the cloth, we make our economy,” said Salima Sultana, a member of the Bangladesh chapter of World March of Women, which is organizing the coordinated actions alongside Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. “We march to pressure the garments owners and buyers to improve the health and environment for women workers, and to increase benefits/ better wages for them. Without movement nothing can change in our lives.”
The April 24, 2013 collapse of the nine-story factory building is believed to be the worst single tragedy in the history of the garment industry. Workers were forced to enter the factory, despite their concerns over large, visible cracks in the walls. Most of the people killed in the subsequent collapse were young women, in a national garment industry where an estimated 80 percent of workers are women from rural areas.
The disaster sparked record worker protests and shined an international spotlight on the rampant abuse, dangerous conditions, and retaliation in the industry. It also exposed the complicity of numerous Western retail corporations and labels, including Walmart, The Children’s Place, Benetton, Zara, and Mango that specifically did business with the Rana Plaza factory.
But despite this global outcry, garment workers in Bangladesh continue to endure “poor working conditions and anti-union tactics by employers including assaults on union organizers,” Human Rights Watch revealed in a report released this week.
Furthermore, The Children’s Place last month arrested over 27 people who attempted to deliver a petition to the company’s headquarters in Secaucus, New Jersey to demand fair compensation for wounded workers, and surviving family members—including children orphaned by the disaster.
In the United States, some feminist actions on Friday will target The Children’s Place, as well as The North Face, both of which have refused to join the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
The San Antonio, Texas-based organization La Fuerza Unida, which was created in 1990 when Levi Strauss shuttered factories in the city without adequate severance pay and is led by women garment workers, is among the U.S. groups taking action on Friday.
Jessica Guerrero, a staffer for the organization, told Common Dreams that the garment workers she works with are taking action because they know, “It is most often women, and women of color, that are affected by this huge industry that does everything for the consumer and each other and nothing for the workers that sustain the whole machine. It is important to work towards ending injustice.”