3 Questions for

Nazma Akter | Awaj Foundation

Nazma Akter worked in a garment factory when she was 11 years old. She is the founder of Awaj Foundation and president of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation and one of the strongest voices for promoting human rights in textile supply chains.

Nazma Akter Foto

1. Please tell us about your work. What does the Awaj Foundation do?

In our organisation, we try to promote female empowerment by doing a lot of awareness raising on health, rights, gender-based violence, women in leadership and collective bargaining. Our main goals are freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, living wages, ending gender-based violence and social protection. This is what we work for: Women Leadership and Collective Bargaining.

2. Why are trade unions so important in global textile production?

Why is a trade union so important? It is a fundamental right of workers. It can change the whole system of a factory. A trade union can negotiate to improve the situation of the workers, and trade unions can increase productivity. That's why trade unions are important. Because dialogue is important. To solve conflicts, you have to talk to each other and understand the problem. You have to solve the problem. That's why a union is very important for workers' rights and for productivity.

3. If you could change on thing over night in the textile industry, what would it be?

If you really want to change something, then purchasing practices have to be transparent and fair. Then things will change. Because people should not be starving. Our workers are starving and malnourished because of low wages and cheap labour. These are the things we need to address. Garment workers need living wages, they need freedom of association and collective bargaining, garment workers need job security, they need respect and dignity. These are the things we need. These are not many things that we are asking for. But companies should act fairly. I know that you as consumers play a very important and crucial role. How do you get the sale, how do you get the discount and buy all the nice things? Nothing is free and nothing is discounted. Someone has to pay in this world. That's our workers: the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, the workers working 12 hours, starving, suffering gender-based violence and sexual harassment. We have to stop this. Fair prices, fair wages and fair purchasing practices.