Rana Plaza: Has The Fashion Industry Changed?
Three years ago, the Rana Plaza building was struck by tragedy. The eight-storey complex in Savar Upazila of Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed on the morning of 24 April 2013, killing over 1,00 people and injuring a further 2,500.
Rana Plaza housed garment factories (including high street favourites Primark and Mango), several shops and a bank. The building was one of many in South Asia that subjected workers to dangerous working conditions, in addition to long hours and little pay.
The owners of the building were made aware that the structure of the building was not strong enough to hold the high number of workers and heavy machinery that it did – but they ignored this warning. Despite upper floors being built without a permit and a number of visible cracks, the owners threatened to stop the pay of workers if they did not show up.
Sohel Rana – the main owner of Rana Plaza – was arrested and is currently awaiting trial for murder, along with many others in connection to the horrific incident.
The Aftermath and Fashion Industry
The Rana Plaza disaster came as an awakening to the fashion industry. The harrowing event sparked an international conversation for fashion retailers and their use of garment factories and the workers they exploit.
According to Ethical Fashion Forum, 80% of the economy in Bangladesh depends on the fashion industry – yet the country is still filled with these factories that are life-threatening for its workers.
Brands in the United Kingdom (such as the Debenhams, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer) have signed up to the The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety – a group set up to ensure safe working conditions in factories in Bangladesh.
Similarly, the Clean Clothes Campaign showed support for victims of the Raza Plaza collapse. The organisation notes itself for being ‘dedicated to improving working conditions and supporting the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industries’. They are consistent on putting pressure on companies and governments to take responsibility for workers being able to exercise their human rights at work.
Fashion Revolution has also urged consumers to ask “Who Made My Clothes?” in their brilliant campaign that connects them with the brands that made their clothing and calls for more transparency in the fashion industry.
Despite this progress, it still isn’t enough. Thousands of lives are being taken advantage of and are at risk everyday due to poor working conditions.
There simply is not enough focus on these ongoing issues in Bangladesh. As consumers, we need to support the organisations that are fighting for workers rights and apply pressure to retailers and governments to talk about them.
If we don’t play our part in raising awareness, the events that occurred at Rana Plaza three years ago will be echoed – and more innocent lives will be lost.
Words by Megan Wilson