Wages, not death: Photojournalist TaslimaAkhter to bring Bangladeshi garment worker’s struggle to world leaders’ attention

Taslima Akhter, award-winning photojournalist and activist, witnessed and documented the deadly conditions in Bangladeshi factories that make the clothes for consumers in wealthy countries. Akhter is going to New York, USA as part of a civil society delegation to the United Nations General Assembly to bring the images of the garment workers into the world spotlight and question the development agenda that has led to continued suffering of low-wage workers in this industry.

For the price of two Gap t-shirts, Bangladeshi factories can afford to hire the labor of a woman worker for a month. This drive to keep prices low for Western consumers has come at the cost of unsafe working conditions, long working hours and few or non-existent social security nets for workers who are mostly young, uneducated women.

“These workers, the cheapest labor of the world, working hard day and night for the supply chain of the international brands, are facing the worst living and working condition that we can hardly imagine in the modern world” says Akhter. Her most well-known photograph, of a man and woman embracing in the rubble of the garment factory that collapsed in Dhaka last April 2013, had been featured in Time Magazine and gave a face to the struggles of Bangladesh’s low-wage workers.

For Akhter, attending the UN General Assembly will be an opportunity to make the world’s leaders and the Bangladeshi government accountable to low-wage workers. “We consider the Bangladeshi owners are primarily responsible for not ensuring safety and the state governance is also responsible for not monitoring it and allowing it to happen. But let us not forget it is the western demand that led the factories to the unsafe places. It is not just the Bangladeshi owners who profited from the process, but the western states, buyers, retailers who all got the share of profit.”

Akhter will also speak at the People’s General Assembly on Development Justice on 21 September 2013. The People’s GA will bring together people’s movements and civil society organizations to challenge the world’s leaders to address growing inequalities, environmental inequalities and increasing marginalisation. Speakers at the event will recount from their experience of how their communities have been adversely affected by development goals focused on profits. They will share their own vision of a just and equitable world.

The People’s GA is being organized by the Campaign for People’s Goals for Sustainable Development. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and IBON International.

To set an interview with TaslimaAkhter, contact the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development,, mobile number (+1) 7183003241