Rita’s story

Rita is a helper in a factory near Dhaka, one of the millions of women who make our clothes. Even when working seven days per week, Rita constantly grapples with how she can afford the basics.

Rita has worked in the garment sector for 14 years, forced to raise her three children as a single parent after her husband left the family and remarried. There were times when she was barely able to feed her family and could only buy leftover cooked rice for food.

“At the end of this month, few days back, I caught fever, for this fever, at the factory, I took 200 taka loan from someone and told him that when I get my salary, I will give it back to you, so by taking this, I bought medicines and had those. This is how I survive, what else shall I do?”

Rita, a garment maker with her daughter in Bangladesh, What She Makes, Photo: Fabeha Monir/Oxfam AUS

Her two daughters are now married, living with their husbands and children. A desperate lack of food for herself and her son for an entire month prompted her reluctant decision to send him to his father and step-mother to live when he was aged 13.

She still sends about a third of her monthly wage to the living and education expenses of her son, who she only gets to see on national holidays.

“My most favourite thing is, with a lot of struggle, I educated my son, this is the thing I love, and the things that he uses, his pants, shirts, shoes and socks, whatever he wants, even if it is difficult for me, I still manage to get him those things.”

Rita, a garment maker in Bangladesh, What She Makes, Photo: Fabeha Monir/Oxfam AUS

Rita also suffers many health issues, but taking time off work is not an option. She tells of a time in 2009 when she was sick and malnourished and told to take time off to recover. When she returned to work, she discovered she had been dismissed and had to re-apply for her job—stripping her of years towards her long service leave. Big clothing brands must pay women like Rita a living wage.