Dhaka, the chaotic capital of Bangladesh, is one of the poorest cities in the world, a place where labor is dirt cheap, and rules are loose. 75% of all export income comes from making clothes for rich countries. International retailers, including some of Australia’s biggest names, have flooded in over the last decade to take advantage of the lowest paid workers in the world.
Muktar worked in a garment factory, not making clothes; she was a safety compliance officer in the doomed Rana Plaza. She was on the fifth floor of the building talking to two of her friends when it collapsed. Muktar has come to the hospital in Savar to see one of those nurses who fell with her into the void. Her friend was brought here along with hundreds of other dead and wounded factory workers. It’s the first time Muktar has been well enough to visit her workmate.
Labony’s arm was amputated when they cut her out of the wrecked building. The three women had landed close together. Labony remembers opening her eyes in complete darkness. Thousands of people were buried in the rubble of the eight-story building. More than a thousand died.
The ward is a pitiful place. The vast majority of clothing workers are women and all of these women were in the garment factories of Rana Plaza when it collapsed. The doctors saved their lives, but no one can restore their lost limbs, or dead workmates. Of the thousands injured, more than 100 had limbs amputated, women like Pachi, whose name means bird in Bengali, or 18-year-old Sonia, whose wound still throbs with pain where her leg was cut off. Others have different injuries. Shopi’s chest was crushed under concrete. Aruthi is 14. She began work in the factory when she was 12.
Her factory produced clothes for international retailers, including Benetton. She has no idea what will happen to her now. In a country with no social security, these women rely on their families to take care of them, doing the simple tasks they can no longer do. None of them know that they will be properly compensated. So far, they’ve received a few hundred dollars each in lost wages from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer’s Association.
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