Archive for the ‘RMG workers’ Category

Silent cry of a RMG worker

Posted: জানুয়ারি 26, 2009 in Livelihood, RMG workers

Momena lost everything in the 1998 floods and then came to Dhaka in search for a livelihood. Now she lives here in a slum, struggling to make ends meet and dating with the high cost of living. She says if her home in the village did not go under water, she would live in Faridpur now.

She is a readymade garment worker, and her dwelling place is in Mohammadpur area.

A visit to her residence will give an impression at every step of bypassing a pool of garbage, which will feel like a big drain of filth. Her room is hardly three-square metres in space, with a ‘chatai’ (mat made from bamboo strips and palm leaves) lying on the floor to serve as a bed. The mat occupies almost all the space in the room, leaving a narrow space for a bamboo shelf and a pitcher next to it. The bamboo rack holds all the kitchen items that Momena and her family possess. All the five members of her family live in that room. At night the door barely closes.

Momena complains, “In the hot summer and monsoon months it is suffocating to live in such a small room even though the room has a ceiling fan. The ceiling is so close to head that her children can touch the fan if they stand on the bed. It’s dangerous.”

Momena’s accommodation and rent do not include a kitchen or toilet.

“I cook just outside my room. As there is no shade, I cover my mud stove with a tin shade to protect it from rainwater. However, I cannot protect my room from the rainwater. In the monsoon, rain makes my mud floor muddy. I have to live like this with my children because I cannot afford a better one,” she says.

Momena’s husband was a rickshaw-puller but for the last three years he has been suffering from acute backache, which restricts him from work. Now he does nothing. To add to her woes, her husband has developed narcotic addiction, for which Momena needs to bear from her pay.

“My factory pays me Tk 2,250. I work eight hours a day from 7.30am to 3.30pm. But I’m not satisfied at all with my remuneration. I cannot afford everyday meals for my children with this salary as the prices of essentials have gone so high,” she says.

“Moreover, my room rent increases in every six months. My husband’s unemployment and addiction are making my life miserable,” she adds.

Momena is blessed with three offspring — two boys and a girl. Both the boys go to school and read in class five and three, enjoying ‘free education’, thanks to an NGO. The organisation bears the school going expenses of the children in that particular slum. However, the NGO is not going to support students beyond class five. Momena is now anxious about her children’s future.

“What will I do if my boys do not get the NGO’s help? In my current situation, I will not be able to support their academic expenses and all other necessities at the same time. I’m afraid I may have to call off their education soon and ask them to help by employing them in work,” she says.

Momena hardly cares child labour laws. She says, “Necessity knows no law. If they are unable to go to school because of my family’s current weak financial condition, what will they do sitting at home? Besides, the socio-economic environment of the locality isn’t that good. They might fall prey to ‘anti-social’ activities and I don’t want that to happen.”

About her factory’s working environment and whether the authorities follow the international standards set for the women workers, she says, “I have no idea. But I do know one thing very well — no human being can work there properly. The place is suffocating, not well ventilated, there is no emergency exit, no fire extinguisher, nothing. The supervisor’s behaviour is very rude. He doesn’t appreciate any good effort but yells when any worker commits even a trifle mistake. And if anyone commits a blunder then God help her.”

Momena thinks of her future staring at uncertainty. She thinks about her crooked husband or the jeopardy her children’s future is in or maybe even about what tomorrow’s menu will be. Hundreds of Momenas are out there, facing the same fate. If this is the present state of the readymade garment workers, then the government and RMG factory owners should take steps to increase their wages and facilities to save them.

The daily star 26th january 2009