We have all heard about the April factory collapse outside Dhaka, Bangladesh that killed 1100 factory workers. Last week the Obama administration got tough on Bangladesh and ceased preferable trade relations with the country.
As one of the poorest countries in the world the United States created specialized trade policies to help Bangladesh earn revenue through its prolific $4.9 billion garment trade with the United States alone. Unfortunately with the increased incidents of factory worker deaths the United States has taken a stand and cut off special trade relations with Bangladesh. While officials in Bangladesh believe the stand is a bit harsh the US believes without any sanctions in place fatal accidents will continue.
Hearing about the new trade sanctions reminded me of a grassroots company called the OM Project I recently learned about. Building momentum on Indiegogo the OM Project has set out to create fair trade products from Bangladesh. According to its founders Susie Tailor and Jason Motlagh:
“The OM Project is about generating fair employment opportunities because dignified work spurs personal empowerment and a broader of sense of agency. We seek to connect artisans around the world with mindful consumers, and we do so by fusing journalism with design in the way we source our product. We document every step of the creative process because we believe inter-personal knowledge generates the trust needed for a new business paradigm. When you purchase an OM product, you know where it came from, who made it and how.”
With an ambitious goal of raising $50,000 to begin their enterprise the OM Project is currently seeking financial support through Indiegogo for the next fourteen days. Right now, they have raised nearly $10k in funds to get their project off the ground and provide much-needed honest and safe work for women workers in Bangladesh’s garment industry. Women make up the vast majority of Bangladesh’s garment workers and therefore run the greatest risk of death and injury while working for daily wages. Women, who are also mothers, work to sustain their families’ livelihood, all the while putting their lives in danger each day and jeopardizing their families’ futures, especially their children’s.
Although the OM Project will not change Bangladesh’s entire garment industry to be sure, their investigative journalism and focus on factory workers have already gained traction in the US press from the Washington Post to the The Atlantic. The pair plans to return to Bangladesh this July to continue to report and document the progress of their project should it be fully funded. After returning from India this summer I understand why this project is important for workers who simply want to work and be protected in their daily work.
To learn more about the OM Project visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-om-project-bangladesh.