Living in London you learn 1 thing fast: we love a protest! It’s so inspiring to be a part of a movement that won’t be silenced on injustice.
But how far do those rally cries translate in to our lifestyle choices? The newest wave of feminism is decked out in knitted pussy hats and ‘the future is female’ tees, yet we still have no idea who the women who made them are.
Are we protesting for women’s rights, whilst wearing clothes that suppress the rights of women globally?
1 in 7 women worldwide are employed in the garment industry and make up 80% of total global garment workers.
The long hours, low wages and vulnerability to physical and sexual abuse in the fashion industry disproportionately impacts women, all in the name of producing more and producing faster for global brands.
The fashion industry is historically geared towards women and how they ‘should’ look and what they ‘should’ wear, yet all of the heads of the world’s 15 largest mass-market apparel companies in the Fortune 500 list are men. And despite the majority of garment workers being women of colour, you can bet even less of the heads of the worlds largest mass-market apparel companies are also women of colour.
Even more concerning is work in the current garment industry is often mistaken for women’s ‘empowerment.’ Normalising women’s employment in pre-existing labour structures, overlooking the conditions, pay levels and expectations on women to be solely caring for the family at the same time, is not upholding women’s rights.
Time and time again we come across the argument that employment in the garment industry, despite low pay and bad conditions is better than some alternate jobs out there. This standard is ridiculously weak. People deserve to be paid fairly and have access to basic human rights, no matter where they work.
Ethical, transparent fashion is a challenge to that.
Ensuring that women at every stage are supported and protected means that transparent, organic and fairtrade tees can be plastered with feminist slogans and really mean something.
We have seen the incredible movements, led by women and for women within the fashion industry in India and Bangladesh and KTO are determined to support them in that. Kalpona, who leads the Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity, was 15 years old when she had unionised 90% of her factory and hasn’t stopped training women in their labour rights since.
Anjali, who founded our partner factory Mandala in India, intentionally hires women so she can offer training, free healthcare appointments and help them set up their own bank accounts. These are the women feminism should be supporting, and the people ethical fashion is supporting!
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