Dear Friends, thank you for taking the time to read my blog. This post has a more serious flavour. I have just finished watching a series called Sweatshop, produced by Aftenposten in Norway, subtitled in english. The 5 episodes follow 3 young Norwegians who travel to Phnom Penh in Cambodia, to experience the life of a garment factory worker. The episodes are quite short, maybe 10-12min. I strongly recommend them for your viewing.
When anyone boasts that this or that item of clothing cost them only $5, I’ve often asked them to consider who is subsidising their lifestyle. I cannot make a T shirt for $5, even if you give me the fabric for free. Someone is subsidising that bargain and garment workers can ill afford to clothe us at their expense. Workers in garment factories earn $3US per day in Cambodia, this is not a sustainable income given they have no free medical care, no old age pension. They are often required to work 7 days a week for 10-12 hours a day for $3US per day.
The issue is not an easy one, often in the west, we’re left feeling like there’s nothing we can do to help their plight. I used to avoid the ‘el cheapo’ chain shops like Supré for higher priced clothing believing that at least the garment maker was being paid what they deserved. But it seems that may not be the case.
This is such an excellent and entertaining series, please watch it and recommend it to your kids. I’m sure they’d really relate to the three young Norwegians who stumbled into this adventure. The Sweatshop episodes can be accessed here in english, cos my Norwegian is not good!
So what can we do? Call me naive but I always think its worth letting your politicians know what motivates you, what worries you. In Australia contact the Hon. Julie Bishop, ask her to support the factory workers in Cambodia by encouraging their government to raise the minimum wage to $177US per month. Clothing manufacturing is the No.1 export for Cambodia. A decline in Cambodian manufacturing output would significantly effect their economy. Australia is a close neighbour to Cambodia and has budgeted $79million of aid to assist development for the 2014/15 period – so we are in communication with the Cambodian government (accessed from the DFAT website). The Hon. Julie Bishop’s email address is here.
Link to the ‘Clean Clothes Campaign’ here. This is a site worth exploring. Did you know that Benetton still have not paid into the compensation fund set up for families of those killed in the Rana Plaza Disaster despite being one of the largest companies to contract there.
Thanks for bearing with me, we cannot continue to pretend we are unaware. Now how about some Norwegian telly?!