Take the fight for women’s rights into your own closet.
It was international women’s day. What once started as a strike of female workers in the garment industry in New York (1908) has become an international movement and celebration for women’s rights all over the world since 1909.
It is fantastic that we set a side a day to celebrate and remember all that these amazing woman are, have done and will do, but I wonder if all people outside of the “demonstrasjonsstog” are remembering women’s rights in their daily lives with their daily choices?
It was the garment workers in New York who were fighting for fair wages. Garment workers are still fighting for their fair wages; the battle has moved location and not many people realise this.
Since the 1970’s the employment in the fabric and ready-made clothing industry decreased. This means that Norway is outsourcing a lot of it’s work to factories and garment workers in third world countries. The import of clothing into Norway has increased with 26% over the past 10 years and with that the consumption of clothing has increased dramatically. How is this possible? Because of cheap labor and therefor low prices. These cheap clothes come with a cost.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has done much research on the work environment and workers right’s in the garment industry, in developing countries, and has found that the circumstances people work in are often very bad. Working conditions in the clothing industry are particularly challenging for female workers and 80% of garment workers are female. Long working hours, safety concerns, low wages, lack of equal pay for work of equal value makes women vulnerable to exploitation inside and outside the workplace. There is poor or non-existent maternity protection and violence and abuse are also often present.
As a consumer living in Norway you are involved in the violations of human rights on the other side of the world. You are buying products that are not fairly produced. They are so cheap that you just have to raise a question mark about it’s production. Our choices as consumers are playing a role in what the industries produce and how they produce it. The small choices we make on a daily basis do matter. What products do I buy? How is it produced? Or by whom? Is this product giving value to its worker? These are questions we must ask ourselves and bring into the debate on equality and women’s rights. We need to take a stand for these women and do our part on our side of the world.
The 8th of March had many powerful and important statements but what is the statement written in the labels of our clothes? What slogans do we have represented in our wardrobe. What women do we support with our choices? We can not continue to ignore the conditions the garment workers are experiencing in producing our cheap sweaters.
Equality is defined as all people having the same rights and the same opportunities. It makes sense to stand up for our own rights in our own country but we must not forget that our behavior and choices have a tremendous effect on these workers and their human rights. It is important to translate our passion for equality and women’s rights into action, to get educated and act accordingly. Ask for transparancy on the value chain in your favorite shop and think about what you buy.
Let’s not hide in the closet but choose to be consumers that not only take in account the “discomfort” of finding and buying something fairly produced but also the undeniable and underestemated “discomfort” other people experience by being exploited for things we buy.