April 23rd 2018 marked the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, in which over 1,100 people died and many more were injured when the factory building they were working in collapsed. Forum member Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has long been active in efforts to improve conditions for textile workers in Bangladesh. GIZ has used the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster to reflect on the success of its efforts – as well as the many challenges yet to be surmounted.
Many of the Rana Plaza survivors were unable to return to the textile industry as a result of the trauma and, in some cases, serious physical injuries they suffered. GIZ has supported more than 500 people in building new livelihoods as small-business owners. More than 1,000 factories have improved their working conditions, and around 30,000 workers have received training in employment law and protection. More than 7,000 disputes in factories between managers and employees (who are now aware of their employment rights) have been settled.
However, seamstresses in Bangladesh are far from the only ones affected by poor working conditions – so too are cotton farmers, tanners and dyers. To sustainably improve working conditions across the entire textile supply chain, from the cotton field to the clothing store, and reduce the impact on the environment, Germany established the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles in 2014. Today, approximately 150 members from the private sector, politics and civil society in Germany jointly pursue binding and verifiable goals, reporting regularly on their success. Half of Germany’s textile market is now represented in the Textiles Partnership, which is coordinated by GIZ.
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