“Your clothes are stained with our blood”
“Your clothes are stained with our blood.” This was the chilling response of a Bangladeshi garment factory worker to Dr Kevin Hargaden, Director and social justice theologian of the Irish Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice) at an international conference exploring the concept of a ‘just wage’ in Bangladesh, when he asked her what she would like him to say to the Irish people about the situation of garment workers like herself.
He was attending the interdisciplinary and interfaith conference at the invitation of the Universities of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA, and in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Academics, business theorists, trade unionists, community activists, and workers in the factories and fields of the country all took part in the three-day event in Bangladesh.
In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, Kevin recounts the stories of various people he met on his trip which was at the invitation of the Universities of Notre Dame in Indiana and Bangladesh.
He tells about the farmers whose livelihoods are under enormous threat from climate change and the imposition of genetically modified farming. He recounts the fascinating story of the shock one garment maker/activist got when she saw the jeans, made in her factory, priced in a well-known US designer store. And he explains the almost insurmountable obstacles workers face when they try to struggle for the smallest of wage increases or better working conditions.
Kevin also analyses the root causes (global) of the systemic injustices in the country and attempts an answer to the vexed questions, what can we as individuals and in our society do about it? And should we stop buying cheap clothes from potential sweatshops?
Photo: Zoriah (Flickr CC)