International Women’s Day: Honour the Female Workers

International Women’s Day: Honour the Female Workers

Honour the Female Workers picture by Ernst Altmann

This article is dedicated to the garment factory workers of Cambodia.

 

 

 

If you look at the history of International Women’s Day, textile workers play an important role. Even if the date is associated with a myth of a women textile workers’ strike in the USA in 1857, there are other women textile workers who have significantly contributed to the spread of Women’s Day and initiated the February Revolution in Russia that has led to the October Revolution. Leon Trotsky wrote:

“23 February (according to the our calendar 8th March) was International Woman’s Day and meetings and actions were foreseen. But we did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution. Revolutionary actions were foreseen but without date. But in the morning, despite the orders to the contrary, textile workers left their work in several factories and sent delegates to ask for support of the strike… which led to mass strike… all went out into the streets.”

Dhaka Savar Building Collapse.jpg
By rijansFlickr: Dhaka Savar Building Collapse, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Now in 2019 it is still the garment factory workers (mostly female) that work under extremely hard conditions in so called sweatshops. The collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013 and calls for help on labels have drawn attention to these horrible working conditions. Major brands like Nike, Puma, H&M etc. have moved their low-cost production to Cambodia where labour is even cheaper than in Bangladesh. Garment factory workers in Cambodia suffer from mass faintings which are considered to be a phenomenon. But if you have a look at the conditions in these hot factories that lack ventilation, the long working hours and the ridiculous wages that only allow low living conditions and a lack of medical care, I think you could rather call it a natural response to massive exploitation and not a phenomenon. The following link gives more inside information about this issue:

https://laborrights.org/blog/201806/brand-responsibility-mass-faintings-cambodian-garment-factories

The blog post also raises the question of who can be hold responsible for these conditions, the major brands or the factories? The products are popular in the Western world and not only the brands but also fashion bloggers promote them. Here is an interesting project that made Norwegian fashion bloggers work under sweatshop conditions:

I have witnessed the Cambodian garment factory workers fighting for their rights in 2014 and on Labour’s day 2017. In this context I would like to raise the question of the responsibility of the consumers. If we know about the production conditions, what can we do to change it. What drives us to still consume these products? Could a twitter campaign help to promote the need to change these conditions worldwide? The #metoo capaingn and the evolving discussions has contributed to the fact that today the International Women’s Day is a public holiday in Berlin for the first time. If you think this is progressive, look at this map:

International Women's Day celebration.png
By ArtemkaOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

It is progressive for Western countries but it is a public holiday in Cambodia.

Although I am fascinated by some digital activism campaigns like Digital Warriors I posted in the links we like section on this blog, I am still not too familiar with the use of social media and I will point that out in my next post “Confessions of a digital immigrant”. Therefor I would love to be inspired by your comments, shared knowledge and suggestions and invite you to discuss and explore the world of ICTs and the opportunities that lie within this form of mass communication with me.

6 Comments

  1. Georgios Papadimitriou

    Very interesting post Bjela 🙂 It actually attends to a question that has since long ago been torturing me: doesn’t the fact that we have a “women’s day” imply that we have as a society come to terms with our failure to foster gender equality? Same goes for other “universal days” of course…environment, children etc. I have not reached any conclusion yet, to be honest. It’s actually an oxymoron to me. On the one hand, we need these “days” to remind us the still long path we have to go. But on the other hand, it would be in that imaginary future without any more “universal days” to celebrate, that we could probably say we achieved something. I still don’t know…

    1. Bjela Prossowsky

      Interesting question Georgios. I think these days can alter and develop their meaning. Even if we will have achieved total gender equality one day, I think it would still be great to remember the women who fought for the rights on an international women’s day. But regarding the actual protest today and movements today – we are not there, yet. And why not celebrate universal days to remember that it was worth to fight for the achievments?

  2. Natalia Hernández Gómez

    Bjela, no doubt your post exposes a problem of which we are participants in this consumer society. Although there are numerous reports that show the bad conditions in which thousands of people (women, men and what is sadder, children) work for the big brands, the countries of the North have a terrifying “facility” for look away. While it is not a situation that compromises our day to day, the background of or the origin of our clothes, to give an example, does not concern us. In fact, the need for countless clothes, at a low price and almost indignant when we do not find bargains (obviously without considering how much the worker who made it) is spreading.

    It is good that in days like the 8M, in addition to fighting for the rights that we claim for our lives, let us remember that there are thousands of women who also need to be shouting against many injustices in which we are partakers.

    1. Bjela Prossowsky

      Thank you Natalia, and I agree that we should show solidarity. I am still thinking about a good way to promote concious consumer behaviour or establish a movement that could bring change via ICTs… maybe an app that shows consumers if it is produced without slavery or a Twitter movement that will call for special days that consumers go up to the cashiers and say they would buy all this if the production conditions would change? Just some silly thoughts but it might have an effect….

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