This film documents five turbulent years in the lives of the women who are at the grass roots of the garment workers struggle in Bangladesh. In their own words, the factory owners live lavishly while the workers live like beggars. Garment workers live in run-down rooms in the slums where many have to share a communal bathroom and most sleep on the floor. Their salaries are barely enough to pay bills and afford food.
The story begins in 2010. At this time the minimum wage for a garment worker was only $22 per month and they were demanding $64. Organizing a union to protect the over four million garment workers in the workplace led to punishment through beatings, sacking, and arrests. The 2013 tragedies of Tazreen and Rana Plaza, in which thousands of innocent lives were lost, lead up to the present day when the long fight continues. The film analyzes this period of time through the stories that are shared by the unions’ female members, workers and leaders.
Some women begin working in the factories as early as age 9 because the income is needed at home, although the salary for a helper can be as low as $9 per month. Some of the luckier ones get $38, but who can survive for a month on that? Not to mention the times when there’s simply no pay, often for months at a time.
Because they are unable to get an education, when they grow up they realize that there are no other jobs available. It seems like once you start working in garments you get trapped there; it’s no different to being in prison. These women don’t get regular time off; they might get up to one day per month and if they’re a minute or two late, they lose the entire day’s pay.
Their lack of education means that they will be staying at those jobs for the rest of their lives. In certain cases, the entire family works as garment workers in the hope that in so doing, they will be able to make ends meet. Many families move to the city pursuing the dream of a better life, but they quickly realize that it’s not to be had so easily.
However the lack of education also means that many of them are unaware of their rights and have come to accept abuse as the norm. But times are changing.