Have you seen this picture from the aftermath of the factory collapse in Bangladesh? Disclaimer, it’s disturbing, but I believe it’s something we all need to see. Here’s the photo description from Time’s website:
Many powerful photographs have been made in the aftermath of the devastating collapse of a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. But one photo, by Bangladeshi photographer Taslima Akhter, has emerged as the most heart wrenching, capturing an entire country’s grief in a single image.
Shahidul Alam, Bangladeshi photographer, writer and founder of Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography, said of the photo: “This image, while deeply disturbing, is also hauntingly beautiful. An embrace in death, its tenderness rises above the rubble to touch us where we are most vulnerable. By making it personal, it refuses to let go. This is a photograph that will torment us in our dreams. Quietly it tells us. Never again.”
Over 1,000 people lost their lives in this collapse. A few months prior, several hundred people were killed in a factory fire in Bangladesh. A couple weeks ago, 8 more people were killed in a fire in Bangladesh. Factory conditions are horrible in this country. Workers may bring home 30 dollars or less per month, well below the international poverty line. How does this concern you and I? Why should we care?
These beautiful lives were lost while making our clothes. These mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers are paid next to nothing because we demand cheap clothes. I believe that these wonderful people are more than just hands that make the clothes I wear everyday. The lives lost were more than just tools to help me look fashionable.
Were the factory owners at fault? Of course. Were the floor managers at fault? Absolutely. Are the American companies who continuously turn blind eyes and claim ‘ignorance’ in their supply chain to blame? Certainly. But I believe I am to blame as well. I have been greedy. I want more, more more! I haven’t always cared about where I bought my clothes. I have moments where I look in my closet and feel convicted about my excess. I promise to do something about it. But one trip to Gap or Target and my conviction goes out the window and a new item of clothing finds its place in my closet.
I’m not going to get into complicated economics, supply chain debates, or a discussion about whether or not ‘a little money is better than no money at all’. I want us to think about what we are saying with our purchases. It is not hopeless, we have a voice. Social change happens with collective action. If this haunts you like it haunts me, do a little research to see what ethical principles are in place in your favorite retailers. Check out a guide I helped develop, Purchase with Purpose. You can research just like we did with a little bit of time.
And, tell your favorite companies that you don’t want another factory tragedy in Bangladesh. We can demand that companies implement stricter practices. Right now, one of my favorite companies, Gap, has not decided whether or not they will sign a new safety accord to protect workers in Bangladesh. I’ve emailed Gap (firstname.lastname@example.org), telling them that I am a loyal customer and would like for them to sign this agreement. If they refuse, I will likely take my business elsewhere. I believe they will listen, because they want our business. They may not listen to my one email, but if my one email is part of thousands, they will pay attention. You are not powerless, you have immense power with your purchases. Let’s join together to truly say: NEVER AGAIN.