We launched the She Wears the Cost campaign, with frontline campaigners from Bangladesh and Cambodia, at ActionAid Australia’s online General Assembly on 24 April. The date marks the 8th anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, when an eight-storey garment factory complex in Bangladesh collapsed, killing more than 1,000 people and injuring another 2,500 workers. It’s a grim reminder of the unsafe conditions endured by garment workers globally.
80 per cent of garment workers worldwide are women and they continue to endure gruelling hours, sexual harassment and low wages, and they are still campaigning for their rights today.
“It is high-risk for their lives. Workers are losing their jobs, getting less salaries, and even working more hours,” said Morium Nesa, from ActionAid Bangladesh.
Brands have continued to make huge profits during the COVID-19 pandemic, but women are wearing the cost. When brands cancel or refuse to pay for orders, or pressure factories into giving discounts, it pushes the financial costs onto women already living in poverty.
Pre-pandemic, big brands were barely paying workers above poverty-level wages. Factory closures, job losses and cancelled orders have meant the garment workers who make their clothes, and their families, are now going hungry.
35 million women are garment workers and when brands don’t pay, inequality rises, and these women are pushed further into poverty.
“Brands need to be challenged to be accountable to worker’s rights,” said Sophorn Yang, President of the Workers Alliance in Cambodia when she addressed ActionAid supporters at the annual General Meeting.
ActionAid Australia is joining with more than 200 organisations as part of the #PayYourWorkers coalition to demand that big fashion brands like Nike and the Just Group (makers of Just Jeans, Jay Jays and Dotti) make sure garment workers do not have to face the COVID-19 crisis alone.
The She Wears the Cost campaign joins the Pay Your Workers campaign in calling on Australian and international clothing brands to support the women who make their clothes.
We’re calling on our supporters to join us and stand with women garment workers demanding justice.