Abandoned garment workers take their fight online

Abandoned garment workers take their fight online

The Shy Activist- “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.”

I’ve already highlighted some of the issues that are connected with the chocolate industry in previous blog posts including child labour, milk production and palm oil. 

I suppose this is a post to highlight the issues we face with this product which is a staple and an addiction for many of us.

It isn’t a surprise considering the state of the industry that child labour and unfair treatment of workers is prevalent in cocoa farming. Cocoa is mainly grown in Ivory Coast, Ghana and Latin America where farmers are paid $2 per day. You don’t need a huge imagination to think what workers get paid. In fact research suggests children are imprisoned on farms after thy look for work or their relatives sell them to farm owners.

These farms supply the biggest chocolate companies including Mars, Hershey and Nestle. These three companies are in the top 10 leading confectioners in the world. I just will never understand capitalism and the concept of being mega rich but not paying your workers enough to live, if anything. If we buy a bar of chocolate which is now around 60p we’ve already used almost half of a farmers daily wage.

The confectioners hide behind the layers of industry, the government, chocolate dealers and farmers, in their bid to stay ignorant. Food Empower Project have written a lot about the issues in the chocolate industry and you can read it here. They have highlighted that although some confectioners certify that they are fair trade and do not allow child labour undercover investigation has found this to be greenwashing. Companies are slow to make changes to ensure that workers are treated with dignity.

If you want to make sure that your money is going to people who deserve it here’s a list that the Food Empowerment Project put together based on companies they recommend to least recommend. The list is extensive and it includes the following that I can recommend in taste. I am REALLY fussy about chocolate because I sadly am a chocoholic.

  • Vego- My favourite
  • Coop brand
  • Divine
  • Montezuma
  • Plamil 

The good shopping guide also made a list based on environmental impact, animal welfare, political donations and many other factors. Read it here. The only company to get a score of 100 is the seed and bean company which I have yet to try, but I will make sure to!

FAIR FAVOURITES- FOUNDLING

“For something to be truly beautiful, it has to be beautiful inside & out..so we set about finding a team of ethical manufacturing partners around the globe. With children & families of our own…ethical production was the only way to go!  Our clothing range is made by a sedex accredited, government regulated business in India – an assurance that people are not being taken advantage of & that they are entitled to the working conditions which most of us just take for granted.”

la cirque trapeze tunic bleu

darjeeling kimono

byzantine nightingale earrings gold

trinidad button down maxi dress

Sources and further reading

https://www.statista.com/statistics/252097/net-sales-of-the-leading-10-confectionery-companies-worldwide/

http://www.foodispower.org/slavery-chocolate/

http://grist.org/food/a-guide-to-ethical-chocolate/

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/02/the-truth-behind-the-chocolate-industry-will-leave.html

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/how-ethical-is-your-chocolate/

The Shy Activist- Palm Oil Palm Oil Palm Oil

Palm is the most commonly used vegetable oil, it is in most food products and mixed with motor vehicle products. I have found that it’s really difficult to find any food products that don’t have palm oil in them. As an ethical eater I try to avoid food that uses palm oil because of the impact it has on the environment and animals.

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Air Pollution

Palm Oil is cultivated in tropical places such as Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. Vast areas of forest are destroyed to make room for more palm oil plantations everyday. 

When forests are bulldozed and torched large amounts of harmful gasses are released into the atmosphere.

The fires also affect the health of workers and people who live in the surrounding areas.

Animals

Tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans are threatened by Palm Oil production. Endangered species habitat’s are destroyed for the purpose of Palm Oil and they “are squeezed into increasingly isolated fragments of natural habitat.”

Pail Oil forests have the least amount of biodiversity at 11 species compared with 80 species in a primary forest.

All animals are affected when poison is used to eliminate rats.

Communities

Deforestation for the purpose of Palm Oil displaces communities who aren’t recognised by the government when the land is handed over to companies. People are pushed out of their land which often creates friction within communities and against companies. 

Farmers who are pushed out of their land then have to clear forests to set up a new farm. New farm land is often very far from towns which restricts access to markets and health and well being services.

Labour rights- taken from SPOTT

  • Workers often live in poor conditions without access to basic facilities such as clean water and lighting, and are isolated by a lack of social support and cultural barriers.
  • Some oil palm plantations are dependent on imported labour or undocumented immigrants.
  • Trafficking cases have been identified in Malaysian and Indonesian oil palm plantations. Workers often have their passports and other official documents confiscated and are not given proper contracts. They can face abusive conditions and can be threatened with deportation or confiscation of wages.
  • Child labour is a common problem in Malaysian and Indonesian oil palm plantations. Children receive little or no pay and may be forced to endure harsh working conditions including long hours and exposure to toxic chemicals. This can be driven by poor education, a lack of school facilities and a generally low regard for education in rural areas.
  • In Malaysia, it is estimated that between 72,000 and 200,000 stateless children work on palm oil plantations.

“Reports of displaced communities and illegal land grabs are not uncommon. The resulting conflicts, loss of income and dependence on large plantations have had a significant impact of the social welfare of many.”

Can things improve?

Greenpeace supporters campaigned for many years and put pressure on big brands to stop using Palm Oil company until it changed it’s practices. IOI, the worlds third largest Palm Oil company, has now put together an action plan agreed to independent third-party verification of its progress in one year’s time. This came after a suspension from “Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) following a complaint by environmental organisation Aidenvironment, which meant it could no longer call any of its palm oil ‘sustainable’”

Unilever and Nestle have stopped buying from IOI and refuse to buy from IOI after the suspension from RSPO has been lifted.

“One of the most important points is that IOI will be actively monitoring its suppliers to ensure they too are safeguarding forests and people. Any company selling palm oil to IOI will need to prove it is protecting forests, so the impacts should spread far beyond IOI’s own operations.”

Here is a list of things you can do taken from rainforest rescue:

  • Enjoy a home-cooked meal using fresh ingredients and oils such as sunflower, olive, rapeseed or flaxseed are ideal for cooking and baking.
  • Read labels: As of December 2014, labeling regulations in the EU require food products to clearly indicate that they contain palm oil. However, in the case of non-food items such as cosmetics and cleaning products, a wide range of chemical names may still be used to hide the use of palm oil. A quick check of your favorite search engine will turn up palm oil-free alternatives, however.
  • Ask your retailers for palm oil-free products. Write product manufacturers and ask them why they aren’t using domestic oils. 
  • Sign petitions and write your elected representatives: Online campaigns put pressure on policymakers responsible for biofuels and palm oil imports. Have you already signed all of Rainforest Rescue’s petitions?
  • Leave your car at home: Whenever you can, walk, ride a bicycle or use public transport.

Ethical Consumer have put together a list of products that contain no palm oil or sustainably produced palm oil. I’m going to focus on the chocolate list because that’s my vice!!! But have a look at the rest of the list for more products.

Other Palm oil-free boxes of chocolates:

  • Vivani (organic): all gift chocolate (mini bars gift tins)
  • Co-op: 24 Assorted Chocolate Truffles, Chocolate Coins, Truly Irresistible Milk Chocolate Truffles gift cube, Truly Irresistible Mint Selection, Loved By Us Belgian Chocolate Pralines,  Loved By Us Irish Cream Liqueurs
  • Mondelez: Terry’s Chocolate Orange Plain, Toblerone (all varieties)
  • Guylian: Seashells, Dark Chocolate Sea Horses, Pearles d’Ocean tin
  • Lindt: HELLO Milk chocolate heart tin

Best company rating for palm oil:

  • Booja Booja (organic, palm oil free company),
  • Divine (Fairtrade, palm oil free company),
  • Cocoa Loco (organic),
  • Montezuma (organic),
  • Vivani (organic),
  • Ferrero Rocher, Raffaello,
  • Mondelez brands (Green & Black’s Organic Collection, Milk Tray, Roses, Heroes, Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Terry’s All Gold, Toblerone),
  • Mars brands (Celebrations),
  • Guylian,
  • Lindt: Lindor, Lindt
  • Co-op

Worst company rating for palm oil:

  • Thorntons,
  • Elizabeth Shaw,
  • ASDA,
  • Morrisons,
  • Tesco,
  • Aldi,
  • Lidl,
  • Iceland

FAIR FAVOURITES- Ethical Collection 

OK these guys have such a beautiful collection. I want everything!

“Giovanna Eastwood founded Ethical Collection in 2015, encouraged by the work of her mother’s charity in Brazil. The charity taught young women to craft and sell bags made of recycled material and Giovanna witnessed the impact that the work had on these women and their communities. The pride they took in their art and the environmental benefits of recycled material gave her inspiration and incentive to dedicate her skills to ethical fashion.”

Pitusa Pom pom Top Pink

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Uzma Bozai Cotton Sagittarius Sweatshirt Grey

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Armor Lux Organic Cotton Red Breton Top

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Beaumont Organic Sophia Maxi Dress Navy & Red

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Sources and further reading

https://www.rainforest-rescue.org/topics/palm-oil#start

http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/palm_oil/environmental_impacts/soil_water_pollution/

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/forests/major-palm-oil-company-promises-protect-forests-20170428

http://greenpalm.org/about-palm-oil/social-and-environmental-impact-of-palm-oil

http://www.sustainablepalmoil.org/impacts/social/

The Shy Activists- FASHION REVOLUTION

We are nearly at the end of Fashion Revolution Week but Fashion Revolution runs all year long.

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Photography by Rahul Talukder

At the beginning of Fashion Revolution Week Mayisha shared her thoughts and what many of us who see through consumerism feel- “We are all unwillingly complicit in this cycle of exploitation, through a system called ‘fast fashion.” We wear the clothes, we buy the clothes, we ask for them.

Since Rana Plaza collapsed “1,137 have been confirmed dead, with over 200 remaining missing. Tales of workers trapped in the rubble with no choice but to saw their own limbs off to escape, of workers trapped within the collapse for days without food or water, surrounded by dead bodies. Of the families who had to identify their deceased family members, only to find that the bodies had been so deformed by the collapse they were almost  unrecognisable. The suffering of the injured workers who are no longer physically capable of working, plummeting them into further poverty. The orphans who lost either one or both parents. The workers who survived, but must face on going psychological torment, as they return to work in the garment factories.”

Mayisha covers how although there is an improvement, things still haven’t massively improved, and that we can try to make a difference by pressuring our favourite brands to make a change. 

Here’s a link to her blog which is a must read.

WHO MADE MY CLOTHES

Who made my clothes is a campaign to look past the clothes, past the label to the person behind the finished product. Supporters of the campaign taken photos of their item of clothing with the label showing to ask the brand on a social platform- who made their clothes.

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Change is at your fingertips

Although there are many ways to lead a more ethical life in terms of fashion such as:

  • swapshops
  • upcycling
  • recycling
  • ethical shopping

We mustn’t forget the plight of garment workers and the issues they face everyday. Mayisha covers a lot of the terrible conditions that garment workers suffer for example, Bangladeshi garment workers earn the lowest minimum wage in the world and it is nowhere near the living wage. 

We have to show that we are in solidarity with garment workers and we have to hold companies accountable. We also have to hold ourselves accountable. Where there is demand there is supply. Let’s demand transparent and fair supply.

Islam teaches us that “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.”

Many of us have the power to use our voice and therefore have the responsibility to do so.

One of the easiest ways that you can put pressure on brands is by tweeting them. Fashion Revolution have helpfully made a template for twitter- 

I’m , and I want to thank the people who made my . Hi @[brand], #whomademyclothes? via @Fash_Rev.

Islam teaches that the condition of the people won’t change until the people change. I think this is a really valuable and important message. We shouldn’t expect things to change on their own. 

We should shoulder the responsibility of making the change happen. 

As Mayisha stated in her post, that although she is unsure about how to change the industry she is sure that we need to make our voice heard.

Sources and further reading

http://fashionrevolution.org/get-involved/ways-for-everyone-to-get-involved/

http://www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/rana-plaza-fourth-anniversary-fashion-revolution-week

http://www.thestar.co.uk/business/sheffield-store-gets-behind-ethical-fashion-revolution-1-8517624

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fashion/style/9-ways-master-eco-conscious-sustainable-dressing-stay-stylish/

https://standup4islam.wordpress.com/2012/12/25/when-you-see-a-wrong-change-it-with-your-hand/

http://ohsoethical.tumblr.com/post/159933245193/fourth-anniversary-of-the-rana-plaza-collapse-my

Fourth Anniversary of the Rana Plaza Collapse- my thoughts.

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Photography by Rahul Talukder

Today marks the fourth anniversary of an incident that left the world horrified, as we witnessed the deplorable consequences of corporate greed and capitalism.

On 24th April 2013, 8am, 3639 workers refused to enter the eight-storey Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh, due to visible cracks in the wall that evidently posed a threat to the workers’ lives. In response, the owner Sohel Rana, brought paid gang members to beat the workers, forcing them to work, with threats that they would not be paid that month. They reluctantly went in.

At 8:45am, the 8 storey building collapsed.

1,137 have been confirmed dead, with over 200 remaining missing. Tales of workers trapped in the rubble with no choice but to saw their own limbs off to escape, of workers trapped within the collapse for days without food or water, surrounded by dead bodies. Of the families who had to identify their deceased family members, only to find that the bodies had been so deformed by the collapse they were almost  unrecognisable. The suffering of the injured workers who are no longer physically capable of working, plummeting them into further poverty. The orphans who lost either one or both parents. The workers who survived, but must face on going psychological torment, as they return to work in the garment factories.

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Photography by Rahul Talukder

What makes things worse is the amount of pressure required to force retailers whose clothes had been found in the factory to compensate the victims and the families of the victims. Indeed, while some did pay up, others, notably Benetton, required intense pressure from campaigners before they gave in. Why they felt they were in no position to support these families is beyond me.

For the past four years since the accident, activists around the world have marked this day as Fashion Revolution Day, and the week it takes place in as Fashion Revolution Week. During this time, people all around the world ask big businesses who made their clothes, highlighting consumer concern for the workers behind their clothes and the need to hold corporations accountable for their workers’ wellbeing.

Demand for the fashion industry to check themselves has increased, and it is refreshing to see fast fashion corporations becoming more transparent, as well as some improvements being shown.

What I cannot deal with however, is the recurring news stories on factory fires from Vietnam to India, garment workers fainting en masse in Cambodia due to lack of nutrition, exhaustion and sweltering heat, young Dalit girls in Tamil Nadu being sexually exploited and abused through the Sumangali System (an agreement that women work in return for dowry required for marriage), women having abortions or working up til pregnancy to avoid being fired, impoverished communities being struck with high levels of cancer and disease due to corporations polluting their land with toxic materials or compelling workers to use hazardous materials, the cotton farmers committing suicide because they cannot keep up with the impossible debt they are put in.

The worst part? We are all unwillingly complicit in this cycle of exploitation, through a system called ‘fast fashion.’

Fast fashion simply refers to when retailers pick up trends from the catwalk, and push them out at large quantities to consumers as cheaply as possible. However, with trends now rapidly changing faster than ever, due to factors such as instant coverage of increasingly frequent fashion shows and online accessibility to new styles, retailers must keep up in order to meet consumer desires. For example, in Zara, designs will stay on sale for a maximum of four weeks. If Zara launch a particular product that doesn’t sell within a week, it is withdrawn, orders are cancelled and new designs are formulated, further highlighting their dedication to consumer demands.

As fast fashion retailers continue to push out new collections in large quantities and short spaces of time, this creates impossible targets for garment workers to reach in terms of clothes required to be made. This is why retailers aim to set up factories in developing countries, where the impoverished are in desperate need of work, where wages can be kept low, and where laws supporting the rights of garment workers are weak. This allows corporations to exploit workers more easily, with workers being faced with long hours, limited breaks, poor working conditions, poor pay, as well as physical, verbal, and sexual abuse.

Smh.

As someone who has always loved designing clothes, combining materials, mixing my cultures via fabric, using my wardrobe to express political views- I feel evermore compelled to fight this battle. I love clothes, but fashion is absolute bull. As my fave Tansy Hoskins explained in an article, fashion today is a facade of ‘choice and empowerment’, a beacon of creativity, but intentionally refuses to acknowledge that it is held up by and dependent on the exploitation of the impoverished.

This is evident in the glorifying of fashion on social media. Particularly, it is the rise of the fashion blogger that has made me increasingly alarmed with this lack of accountability the fashion industry gets away with. Every time I see an Insta post with a caption saying something like ‘OMG I’M ADDICTED TO SHOES’ ‘SOMEONE TELL ME HOW TO STOP BUYING CLOTHES’ ‘I CAN’T STOP BUYING CLOTHES’ ‘RETAIL THERAPY’, and all these clothing hauls, it makes me sad that corporations have really worked their magic on us. Through persuading us that the only way we can be deemed as successful, the only way we can be happy, is by purchasing clothes that only provide a short term happiness which eventually fades until we get our next fix of ‘retail therapy’, they are truly feeding on our insecurities and the susceptibility of our subconscious to external messages. I can honestly say, most of this realisation has come from analysing myself and my responses to the world, and trust me it is a constant struggle battling between the messages we receive from society and my own consciousness.

At the end of the day, as much as society compels us to think fashion, style etc is the epitome of social success and happiness, we need to remind ourselves that this mindset is intentional, is a tactical form of marketing, and most importantly, A LIE.

The fact is, no one should have to suffer for me to be able to express myself, to be unique, to be creative, to be able to have a cute insta aesthetic and get bare likes for an ootd. As obvious as it sounds, this is the world we are in.

While I am still unsure as to how exactly we transform the fashion industry (I think about this everyday ngl lol), there is something I am sure of: You need to make your voice heard. Retailers depend on consumers to thrive, so increasing the pressure on these corporations to ensure the wellbeing of their workers is essential. Even simply @ing or emailing retailers like h&m, inquiring about workers rights has a powerful impact, especially if done collectively. In addition,  I strongly believe in the impact our own actions can have on changing the world and changing our own behaviours. By reducing the amount of unnecessary clothes we buy, mending or recycling the clothes we have, opting for secondhand garmz or even Fairtrade stuff if u got p, we can encompass a sense of consciousness for humanity with every action we take, allowing our lives to symbolise the world we want to see, and help to actually be the change we want to see.  There are also many organisations out here working actively to support garment workers around the world, such as Clean Clothes Campaign and Labour Behind the Label- check them out. I hope, both individually and collectively, we will all take a stand against this consumerist, materialistic society fuelled by capitalism. 

Anyway I’m out. I truly hope we can create a world where the greed and ego of the people at the top is overridden by the masses and our desire to care for and protect our brothers and sisters around the world. 

Mayisha

p.s. check out some of the events happening for Fashion Revolution Week this week here

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Photography by Rahul Talukder