A Canadian journalist spent time undercover working in a Bangladeshi sweatshop and recently published her experience in The Toronto Star. Raveena Aulakh reports that she was trained by a nine year old who was one of a group of children working 12 hour shifts six and a half days a week.
What makes this story do more than tug at our heart strings is the recognition by the journalist of the complexity surrounding this issue. The young girls working in this sweatshop spoke not only of their shock at being pulled out of school and suddenly working 12 hour days, but also of their pride at being able to help their families improve their living conditions. One 13 year old also believed that if she was earning a wage, she was less likely to be married off for money.
This is such a layered issue with no quick fix. It feels a lot like the asylum seeker issue here in Australia. Every possible solution throws up a whole bunch of new complexities. Do we stop buying clothes from sweatshops and thus impact on the incomes of families in desperate positions? Do we lobby companies that sell these clothes saying that they have a responsibility to ensure living wages for the people who produce the clothes they sell? Would either of these actions lead to better conditions for workers? I don’t know. Working for social and economic justice are lofty goals these days. There’s no quick fix.
In the meantime, I’m grateful to this journalist for taking the risks she took to get the message out.