The BBC’s recent Panorama investigation, Dying for a Bargain, brought welcome attention to the issue of workers’ rights in the Bangladesh garment sector, where more than 1,100 people recently died in the collapse of a garment factory at Rana Plaza. It rightly pointed out that up to a million people work in dangerous or illegal conditions at constant risk from fires, poor health and safety standards and a host of other labour rights abuses. However, there is one crucial fact that Panorama left out: the vast majority of workers they are talking about are women.
What about women?
Around 82% of all garment workers in Bangladesh are women – but you wouldn’t know it from watching Panorama. The reporter was male. The managers who were interviewed were men. The workers who were interviewed were men. Apart from some well-spoken civil society representatives, the women who represent the vast majority of the victims at Rana Plaza and are the daily victims of the poor working conditions of the garment sector were largely relegated to the background.