Nahian Shah discusses the significance of Fashion Revolution
Fashion Revolution calls for a systemic reform of the fashion supply chain while being an opportunity to celebrate fashion as a positive influence. One of the aims of this celebration is to raise awareness and demonstrate that creating a more ethical and sustainable future for fashion is not only possible but can be implemented for good. Fashion Revolution stands for the invisible workforce consisting of thousands of individuals who are responsible for the production of the clothes we wear. Fashion Revolution Day honours the one thousand, one hundred and thirty-seven garment workers who lost their lives in the Rana Plaza Disaster in Savar on April 24, 2013.
The Rana Plaza collapse was the most severe factory related catastrophe in the history of the world. With such high death tolls, the primary focus now is to prevent a tragedy of this magnitude from occurring ever again. However, in the process, forgotten are the survivors who lived through it all.
The world tends to suffer from a short attention span on even the most dreadful tragedies. As time goes on, lessons are learnt as people pick up the pieces and move on. But for the survivors who lived through it all, it’s not a matter of simply moving on.
Rana Plaza was an eight-story commercial building which consisted of several shops, a bank and garment factories. The various shops and the bank closed down immediately after cracks on the building were discovered on April 23, 2013. However, ignoring all warnings to avoid using the building, the garments workers were ordered to return to work the following day to carry out their regular responsibilities.
Within the sea of workers, Siddik worked as an assistant line iron man in the sewing department of New Wave Style Ltd situated on the seventh floor of the building. He was promised his entire monthly salary on April 25, which made him ignore his father’s admonishment before leaving for work in the morning. However, as soon as he reached his destination, he was overwhelmed with a terrible feeling forcing him to take two steps back for every step he took forward. Siddik and several other factory workers began voicing their safety concerns, but they were brutally beaten by the guards, leaving scars on Siddik’s back which he still carries around today.
Forced into the building, he got into working the iron like he would on any other day. Less than thirty minutes into the job, the building began to collapse. “I was standing beside a pillar, working on the iron like I usually would. All of a sudden, the building started to collapse. I reacted quickly enough to get under the machine which would ultimately save my life,” he explained.
While the world moved on from this horrific tragedy, Siddik and the rest of the survivors could not. He is still haunted by everything he experienced on the day of this tragic experience. “I was working with a friend that day. I luckily got under the ironing machine at exactly the right moment. My friend, on the other hand, had sustained fatal injuries after the collapse. He was crying and squirming in pain. He asked me for some water. I always carried water with me, but I didn’t that day. He died within the next couple of hours and there was nothing I could do to help him; not even offer him a drop of water.”
Siddik was unconscious at the time his body was recovered from the pile of rubbles three days after the collapse. He added, “I don’t remember when or how I got rescued. When I regained consciousness, some people forced me to go on a talk show around 11pm that very night. After everything that happened, I was fearful of going into another high-rise building. But I had no choice; I was forced to be on the show. Three men had to overpower me and drag me inside. It was torture,”he recalls with horror.
“I was supposed to be taken to a clinic later, but they kept me waiting at Cantonment. I missed my parents, I really wanted to see their faces and tell them I’m alive. So I decided not to wait any longer and ran away. After a few days, the clinic still admitted me into their hospital. That’s when they discovered I had developed asthma,” added Siddik.
However, by the time Siddik was admitted to the hospital, they were no longer providing free health care. He could not even afford to buy himself the inhaler which he so desperately needed. There were other clinics providing free health care to victims but they all let go of patients who didn’t need serious treatment.
Siddik received his salary of nine thousand taka and an additional amount of fifteen thousand taka through bKash but he, like most other victims, is not sure who provided them with the extra amount.
He is currently being aided by CSID, Centre for Services and Information on Disability, to get over the trauma. Siddik is kept busy through acting in plays, learning to drive and often likes teaching others how to act. However, with each passing day, the support he received from these organisations are coming to an end.
Siddik still remembers being fashionable and talkative but after the trauma he experienced, he finds himself being reserved and his spirit broken. He, like most other victims, finds it difficult to hold onto a job for too long.
Siddik’s father, a construction worker, is currently supporting him. Siddik dreamt of starting up and running his very own convenient store, but without any start up capital, he now wants to save up for an auto-rickshaw and go back to his village in Kuakata, leaving behind the city which has already forgotten his existence.