News / Asia

    Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka Weave a New Future in Garments

    FILE - Bangladeshi garment worker Asma, who worked on the 4th floor of Rana Plaza garment factory that collapsed exactly a year ago, works at a factory meant to rehabilitate survivors of the accident, the worst in the history of the garment industry, in S
    FILE - Bangladeshi garment worker Asma, who worked on the 4th floor of Rana Plaza garment factory that collapsed exactly a year ago, works at a factory meant to rehabilitate survivors of the accident, the worst in the history of the garment industry, in S

    The garment and textile industry has been very important to the fabric of the national economies in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Amid major industry changes in recent years, each nation has adapted to shifting market conditions and internal pressures for improved labor conditions and products.

    Sanchita Saxena, Executive Director of the Institute for South Asia Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, is author of the book Made in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, which examines the garment industry changes in these three nations over the past decade. In excerpts from her conversation with VOA’s Jim Stevenson, the changes followed the end of a quota arrangement that had been in place for more than 30 years.

    Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka Weave a New Future in Garments
    Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka Weave a New Future in Garmentsi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    SAXENA:  There was a lot of anxiety in Asia and other parts of the world amongst garment exporting countries that the MSA quotas, the Multi-Fiber Arrangement export quotas, were about to expire in 2005. So at that time I started working on a lot of programming around how to address these issues. There was a lot of pessimism that all these countries would drastically lose market share and what was going to happen after that. It wasn’t until about five years ago that the idea for the book really came about. It seemed like an interesting question of how certain countries seemed to have survived. There was a big shift in terms of thinking about issues like labor rights. There was a lot of changes placing in these countries and there was a lot more dialogue.

    STEVENSON:  Let’s go back to that Multi-Fiber Arrangement and what it meant to these countries and the textile industry there. How did it help them, how did it hurt them and what did the expiration of this mean to them?

    SAXENA:  The idea was that they were going to just flood the market. So the quotas were there to keep them in check. What happened is, in countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka – all the three countries that I look at in the book – they created sort of haphazard growth in some sense of the sector. Because the quotas were in place, they guaranteed market share. There was very little desire to actually look at issues of labor rights or how to actually improve products. They just did the minimum needed to continue their share of the market. As suppliers started going to these countries and as they realized there was abundant cheap labor, that actually added a lot of pressure to the system. Now that is actually what we see, kind of the ramifications of the MFA quotas now, even though they are expired. A lot of the disasters that we see in Bangladesh are due to this haphazard growth and this lack of planning of the sector.

    STEVENSON:  Your book goes into the emergence of coalitions and how the industry developed beyond 2005 and the ending of this agreement. Tell us about these coalitions and how they came about.

    SAXENA:  The book really tries to look at the industry beyond the headlines. I actually argue that in Bangladesh, which is always in the news for very negative aspects of the sector, actually has been taking a lead and has been successful in creating these coalitions, coalitions of the various groups and stakeholders who are part of the industry. At one time it used to be very close relationships between the private sector and the government. Now the role of labor has really emerged as an important player in the coalition. There have been various channels to use to represent the role of labor. Also the role of buyers has really changed. They at one time used to come and only deal with expressing issues. Now they are actually in many cases advocating for improved labor rights. We see this in varying degrees in the three countries that I look at. I argue that Bangladesh has actually progressed further than the other two countries in terms of creating these stronger coalitions.

    STEVENSON:  Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka – do the nations interact as far as working on trade and textile industry or have they come up individually, on their own?

    SAXENA:  I think it is really more individually. Each country over the years [has] developed their own niche. Bangladesh focuses really on basic T-shirts and really basic goods. Sri Lanka is much more of a higher end player. Their products would have more intricate beading and lace and other kinds of things that would require more detail. There is a clear difference in the types of products they would produce. They kind of specialized in some sense over the years.


    Jim Stevenson

    For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora