“I have been working in the garment industry for 9 years now. I am from Doulotpur, Khulna. My parents live there. I, along with my husband and son, live in Ashulia. I started working right after my brother moved abroad as the livelihood of our family fell upon my shoulders. Besides that, I had to arrange for my younger sister’s wedding as well. Altogether, I decided to start working; I joined as a helper in a garment factory and now I work as an operator.
I started working with the union because I cared about the workers. I always wanted to do something for them. Whenever someone failed to voice their problems, I tried to help them. Gradually, I started doing these for everyone. That’s how I came to know Najma Apa and Noyon Bhai. With the help of the Federation, we presented our demands to form a union to the garment owners. That is how the union began. This was only possible because of Awaj Foundation.
The invitation to speak at the UN conference about business and human rights was a matter of great prestige for me. When I went to different places to get the necessary documents to attend the conference, a lot of people asked what I was applying for. When I mentioned the conference, a lot of senior officers responded saying that it’s an honor to speak at the UN conference; an opportunity, that money cannot buy. While at the conference, I chose to speak in Bangla. It was also another moment of pride for me, to be able to represent my country in our mother language. They showed me around Switzerland. We also visited the stores of the buyers who we work for. We also got to know the price and amount of the products sold through the outlets. I really enjoyed the whole experience! But above all, I loved the walks by the lake.
Everyone in my family is really proud of me; even our neighbours. My husband is also very supportive and he helps me with everything. My husband and my son help me with household chores. I wouldn’t have come this far without their relentless support.
As for future plans, I want there to be unions in other factories as well so that the workers can lead a better life. Our owners are not bad people, but if we do not ask for their help, how can they help us? We need to think about them as well because our income depends on their income. The room we use for union work is provided by our owner. We have taken another office space with the help of Federation for workers from other factories. On off days, I go there and listen to their problems. They want to form unions in their factories as well.”
– Story of an employee at a garment factory who was invited to speak at the UN Conference in Switzerland