Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fiona's Journal - June 2008

We arrived in Gawair in the middle of the night two weeks ago. We couldn't see the huge pot holes filled with sewerage that stretched across the roads but we could feel them. The air was moist and humid and smelt of smoke. It was two am, but the towering garment factories on either side of the road with their fluorescent lights beaming lit up the night sky. The several garment factories in Gawair make up just a few of the 4,000 or so factories in Bangladesh; purpose-built brick monuments to the instant money to be made from a global clothing industry.

The garment factories in Bangladesh have deep historical roots to the 18th century when the British banned the importation of Indian silk that was far superior to anything that could be produced in Britain. Ironically, it is now the objective of Western powers to ensure that countries like Bangladesh do not adopt the protectionism which proved essential to the effective development of their own industry three hundred years ago. Despite the violence and war that plagued Bangladesh in the 1970's and 1980's, it is in fact economic rather than military forces that are proving more effective in constraining the Bangladesh people, particularly women. Bangladesh is now an export-processing zone; garments earn two-thirds of the foreign exchange. About 800,000 people work in the garment factories of Dhaka, three-quarters of them are women.

During my time volunteering at The Dhaka Project I have been assisting in turning the current sewing centre into a profitable enterprise by writing and implementing a business plan and designing a new range of products. The sewing centre at The Dhaka Project is designed to combat the growing problem that is preventing the women of Bangladesh escaping from the cycle of poverty. Providing training and then opportunities to get involved in production, The Dhaka Project Sewing Centre will give the women in The Dhaka Project Community a sustainable business which will be a tremendous benefit for the community. The Dhaka Project Sewing Centre is undergoing expansion and has just moved to a new location guaranteeing space and excellent working conditions. During their nine to five shift the women receive two meals and regular breaks.

In the short term we intend on employing over twenty new production staff who are parents in our community, as well as providing paid training to parents and sisters of children in our school who have never sewn before. Once equipped with knowledge and skills in karchupi and sewing the women in training will have the opportunity to quickly move into production if they wish, and earn a substantial salary of over 1500 taka per month.

The Dhaka Project Sewing Centre will begin targeting Emirates Airlines Air Crew, a market with which we have a great relationship and whom we know will be receptive to our ideas. Creating a fusion of Western clothes with Bangladeshi characteristics, the bags, scarves and clothing will bear The Dhaka Project logo. We look forward to this being a very successful venture, whereby we can quickly grow and promote our free trade practice and break the cycle of poverty that is unfortunately being repeated all over this beautiful country.

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