Grieving the seamstresses we never knew

Earlier this week, the Her.meneutics blog at Christianity Today invited me to write about shopping.

The conversation came out of a terrible tragedy that occurred last week in Bangladesh. An eight-story garment factory building crumbled, killing at least 300 workers and injuring over 1,000 more. On Wednesday afternoon, my friend Eileen called to tell me the news. “It has me thinking about purchasing habits,” she said. “There’s a connection between American consumers and this factory. Most of us don’t think about it.”

Shagorika, age 12, is waiting for a sponsor in Bangladesh.

The TV ad

Eileen got me thinking. And then, in a stroke of irony stranger than fiction, just minutes after hanging up the phone I saw this TJ Maxx ad on TV.

In the commercial a woman quips, “Is it wrong to buy an entire outfit to match your mani-pedi?”

Her response to her own question: “Not if you find something amazing for less than the price of it.”

The ad reinforced what had long been true of my own shopping habits: price was my primary consideration, and justice was not even a thought. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the TJ Maxx ad if I hadn’t heard just moments before of the disaster in Bangladesh. And that’s the problem. We don’t give it a second thought.

Here’s an excerpt from my blog on Her.meneutics.

Even after the tragic collapse, the news that such a factory would be making our clothes didn’t come as a complete surprise. We knew it already. Most of us have heard of sweatshops, where labor laws are violated, wages are unfair, or conditions are hazardous. For decades, clothing manufacturers that supply the U.S. fashion industry have been accused of relying on unethical working conditions for the cheap products we buy. We feel aghast when we hear such reports… at least initially. We might even share a news article with friends. And then, with our most powerful voice—our wallets—the majority of us simply pretend as if we had never heard the news.

You can read the rest of my post on Her.meneutics.


Don’t click away

For any of us hearing a story like what happened in Bangladesh, the most dangerous moment is the split second between our sense of horror and our realization of helplessness. It has happened to me countless times. I feel a spark of outrage, but then I start questioning my ability to do anything to help. The issue seems to far away, too large scale, and too complicated. As a result, rather than drawing near, making a small dent, or seeking to understand a solution, I simply turn away.

Sponsoring a child like Ramjan Ali helps to end poverty for children and their parents.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In the Her.meneutics article, I offer some daily choices that anyone can make to move toward justice in the garment industry. One of those solutions is to support work that fosters entrepreneurship among the vulnerable in Bangladesh.

The more you learn about Food for the Hungry’s work in Bangladesh, the more convinced you will be about its effectiveness in ending poverty.

Before you click away, please look at the photos of children available for sponsorship in Bangladesh. Say a prayer for these children and their parents. Give thanks that through sponsorship their poverty will end!