It’s not a question we ask ourselves often. Maybe we prefer not to ask ourselves who made the clothes we wear because we are afraid we won’t like the answer. It is entirely probable and likely that the clothes we’re wearing were made in sweatshops, in developing countries where labour laws aren’t enforced.
For those who are not aware, a sweatshop is a manufacturing facility where workers endure poor working conditions, long hours, low wages and other violations of labour rights. Workers being exposed to toxic substances or using dangerous machinery without adequate protection. According to Ethical Clothing Australia, in Bangladesh regulatory agencies are so under resourced that there are only about 20 inspectors for more than 10 000 factories.
These reports came out just months after the tragic building collapse in Rana Plaza which killed more than 1,000 people and highlighted the plight of the nation's garment workers.
But is not only offshore that garment working are being exploited. According to the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia, approximately 50-70% of Australian made clothing is outsourced to migrant women working from home or in backyard sweatshops. These are our ‘Australian Made’
There are alternatives to purchasing clothes made unethically.
And to demonstrate this I want to leave you with something a little more uplifting; I’d like to share the story of Sole Rebels a shoe label created by Ethiopian designer Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu. She founded the company in 2004 with the dream of re-imagining the traditional Ethiopian “selate” or “barabasso” shoes, the soles of which are made out of recycled car tyres. The idea was to bring jobs to her community.
“We committed ourselves to not only creating jobs for our fellow citizens but to excellent paying ones; ones that were FAR & ABOVE what other local employers were paying for similar work! Our wages on average are over 233% higher than the industry average. What that means is that our average workers earn a full 4 to 5 times the legal minimum wage and over 3 TIMES the industry average. Many workers earn much more! That's what we mean by a PROUD WAGE!"