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May 11, 2017

Women Power Fashion: what can the consumer do?

What can you do to help eliminate women’s exploitation in the clothing industry?

With the Women Power Fashion project, Mama Cash and the Clean Clothes Campaign are providing support to activists facing extreme overtime, breadline wages and insecurity in the clothing industry. Thus, members of 14 unions and organisations in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were trained so that they could enforce their rights more effectively. They learned to negotiate and were given money to buy items that would improve their safety.

The empowerment of workers is an indispensable step towards improving the conditions of women who depend on the clothing industry for their living. Even consumers in the West can contribute to this. Barbara Lotti, our programme employee for Money and Employment Rights, has formulated some tips.

Barbara Lotti: “As a consumer, you can feel powerless about such a billionaire industry. But like activists in South Asia, we have some influence by making our voice heard. So ask questions! Ask your favourite clothing brand where and how their clothes are produced. Because what you now see is Western businesses simply washing their hands of the whole business and referring to factories and work structures in Asia and in other continents where the clothing is being produced. However, clothing companies in the West must accept responsibility for the pressure they exert to achieve the highest levels of production in the shortest possible time at the lowest possible prices.

What is a bit nonsensical are the model factories and own brand marks that some clothing brands have started. No new system is required at all. It is just a matter of treating workers decently according to the current standards of the International Labour Organisation. And you know what’s wrong: it’s not even necessary as a consumer to pay that much more to improve the wages for workers in the textile industry. After all, the clothing brands have a huge profit margin.

So, as a consumer, let’s hear from you. That can be in an email to your favourite clothing brand, social media or just at the till when you are paying for your clothes. Of course, they can’t usually answer your question in detail, but the message that consumers find it important that their clothes have been manufactured under ‘good’ conditions does actually trickle through to management.”

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