Bangladesh factory fire survivor visits Australia

Ethical trading & business, Labour rights article written on the 25 Mar 2014

On 24 November 2012, Sumi Abedin was working in the Tazreen garment factory in Bangladesh when she was forced to make a chilling decision. Trapped in the burning factory and faced with the horrific choice between burning alive or jumping to certain death, she chose to jump.

Not because she thought she might survive, but because at that terrifying moment she thought of her family.

By jumping she hoped her family would have the comfort of being able to identify her body. She didn’t want her parents to have the same experience as other grieving families from previous factory fires who had been faced with unidentifiable remains and unable to claim their loved ones.

Against the odds Sumi survived her jump from the third floor with a broken ankle and broken arm, but 112 of her co-workers and friends died that day. Padlocked exit doors and barred windows contributed to the tragedy.

Sumi now tells her powerful story of survival to help change the working conditions of men and women in Bangladesh. Her story needs to be heard. 1,800 people have died in factory fires and collapses in the Bangladesh garment industry in the past 10 years.

April marks the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka. The Rana Plaza collapse on 24 April 2013 killed at least 1,138 and injured an estimated 2,500 people.

Despite emerging cracks in the building resulting in an evacuation order being issued the day before the collapse, and adhered to by the banks and shops on the lower floors, the garment workers, who produced clothing for Western firms, had been ordered to return to work on the morning of the 24th April by their managers.

Those managers declared the building safe and threatened to withhold pay for those who didn’t go back to work. Hours later the building collapsed. Some of the bodies from this tragedy may never be identified.

Sumi will be joined in Australia by Kalpona Akter from the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity. Kalpona campaigns for compensation for families and workers impacted by these tragedies and for the improvement rights and conditions for garment workers.

Together they will explain what has changed in Bangladesh since the Rana Plaza collapse, how they are working to improve the garment industry and how, as Australian consumers and citizens, we can support women like Sumi to be able to work in safe and decent conditions.

Please come along and hear Sumi’s powerful story of survival and how she is working to change the lives of women in Bangladesh.

MELBOURNE EVENT

When: Tuesday 15th April. 5.30 for a 6PM start
Where: Melbourne City Conference Centre, Swanston Street near crn Lt. Lonsdale, Melbourne
Opposite State Library

SYDNEY EVENT

When: Wednesday 16th April. 5.30 for a 6pm start
Where: NSW Teachers Federation Conference Centre, 37 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills, Sydney, NSW
Near Central Railway Station

RSVP via the Facebook event