News / Asia

Spotlight on Safety One Year After Bangladesh Building Collapse

Fatema holds a picture of her son Nurul Karim as she poses for a photograph in front of her house in Savar, April 21, 2014. Fatema lost her son and her daugther Arifa, who were working at the Rana Plaza when it collapsed on April 24, 2013.
Fatema holds a picture of her son Nurul Karim as she poses for a photograph in front of her house in Savar, April 21, 2014. Fatema lost her son and her daugther Arifa, who were working at the Rana Plaza when it collapsed on April 24, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
Nearly one year after a deadly building collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1100 garment workers, efforts have begun to improve safety in the world’s second largest supplier of clothing. Many of the victim’s families still are waiting for adequate compensation, however, while hundreds of survivors are unemployed and coping with the trauma of that tragic day.
 
For the last 15 years, the owner of Bangladesh’s Softex Sweater plant, Rezwan Selim, had been manufacturing clothes in a rented building in Bangladesh's capital. But in early March, his booming business screeched to a grinding halt when international inspectors told him to stop work because the factory was not structurally safe.     
 
“I had no option but to evacuate. That is what I have done. The building needs to be retrofitted, and the retrofitting -- who is going to do it, who is going to pay for it? All these issues are being discussed,” said Selim.
 
The closure is a result of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, an initiative launched by 150 mostly European retailers after hundreds of workers were crushed to death or injured when the eight-story Rana Plaza building  collapsed a year ago. Although the factory on Dhaka’s outskirts had developed cracks, workers were told to continue sewing clothes. It was the garment industry’s worst-ever disaster.    

Rana Plaza legacy

The pile of rubble which still sits at the Rana Plaza site turned the global spotlight on the poorly-built, unsafe workshops that churn out apparel sold by global retailers in Europe and the Americas. The collapse put pressure on multinational retailers to ensure that the garment factories producing their labels are safe.  
 
The tragedy has prompted key first steps to ensuring the protection of garment workers. The accord has resulted in the inspection of about 300 of 1500 buildings it plans to survey by September. Eight, including Selim’s factory, have been completely or partly closed in an effort to avert another Rana Plaza type of disaster.
 
The accord is not alone in its safety inspections, reviewing structural, electrical and fire safety systems. Another group of more than 20 American and Canadian retailers is leading a similar effort and has ordered one factory to close. The two initiatives have created confusion, but observers say the efforts are headed in the right direction.  

The executive director of the accord, Rob Wayss, sees the recent factory closures as an indication that change is taking place. But he admits that with much at stake for garment manufacturers, there is a measure of resistance.  
 
“I think in some ways, though, it is unfortunate, the requirement that suspension of production and evacuation of factory buildings is another indicator that progress is being made.," said Wayss,. "There is a price tag on the fixes, and so there has been a little bit of anxiety and a little bit of effort to try to push it back or slow it down.”

Making improvements

Garment industry owners have expressed concerns about the expense of renovating buildings, saying the efforts could hurt Bangladesh’s competitive edge and take business away to other Asian manufacturers. They want retailers to share some of the costs.
 
Activists point out that fears of global retailers reducing their footprint in Bangladesh in the wake of the disaster have not come to pass, and business has boomed in the past year. They are calling on garment factory owners to do more to improve the industry.   
 
Among them is Kalpona Akter, who heads the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity.
 
“These days they are shouting that we don’t have money and the accord is closing down our factory or the alliance is closing down our factory," said Akter. "They should not shout that they don’t have anything and they cannot make changes. They should do their own inspections and shift all those unsafe factories to safe buildings.”
 
The global spotlight since the Rana tragedy also has put pressure on government to improve working conditions for garment workers. The monthly minimum wage has been raised from $36 to $68. Additionally, a law has been passed that allows workers to form labor unions.   

Helping survivors

Many feel that amid the focus on safety, though, the plight of those who were working on that fateful day in Rana Plaza has been overlooked.  
 
For hundreds of them the nightmare continues.  
 
ActionAid Bangladesh has surveyed more than 2,200 family members of victims and survivors. The group's deputy director, Aamanur Rahman, said many of them have not found alternate employment. The few hundred dollars they got as compensation from the government or welfare organizations has long been spent, and they need money for food and to pay off outstanding house rent and loans.
 
Rahman said many survivors are still coping with physical injuries or mental trauma suffered on that fateful day.  
 
“Many of them still say they have a kind of phobia to work in a closed environment. Some of them are still suffering from insomnia," said Rahman. "Some of them are sometimes shocked by loud shouts. This kind of trauma still makes them panic [and prevents them] to return to their regular lives.”  
 
The question is whether the Rana Plaza disaster will become a turning point and ensure that the nearly 4 million workers in the industry never have to suffer a similar fate -- or will it be business as usual?

You May Like

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs