Since late March, several garment factories in Bangladesh have shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with at least one million workers fired or furloughed because of declining global orders — about a quarter of the industry’s workforce. Since the initial closings, most factories have reopened with help from the IMF and a government stimulus package, yet the virus continues to affect global demand and livelihoods.
As a garment worker named Nahar recently told The Guardian: “Our house rent is due. We are buying all our groceries on credit but they won’t give us any more food until we pay our bill. So our landlord managed to get a sack of rice for us and we’re surviving on that.”
The Ethical Fashion Working Group, a SIPA student group that focuses on intersectional policy solutions to improve the fashion industry, has launched a fundraiser for Bangladeshi garment factory workers whose livelihoods were adversely affected by COVID-19.
Professor Eugenia McGill, director of the Economic and Political Development concentration, advised the organizers, who are now working in tandem with students Penn State’s Center for Global Workers’ Rights and the University of Dhaka to raise money for Bangladesh Shrama Institute (BASHI), a nonprofit based in Bangladesh.
“Our goal is to reach $3,000 USD which will provide critical resources to hundreds of impacted workers and their families,” Ethical Fashion Working Group’s Christina Jung Sewell MPA ’21 said. “We are grateful to our community for helping us reach this amount and for elevating discussions around this important human rights issue.”
BASHI will distribute the donations (in the form of PPE and food supplies) to garment workers who are still without wages or struggling since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.