This is clearly not what a feminist looks like.
Popular equality activists The Fawcett Group is under fire over claims they have been using sweatshops to produce their popular “This is what a Feminist looks like” t-shirts. The report, released on Sunday, revealed that the Whistles for Fawcett Society shirts were made in an Indian Ocean island sweatshop where the women are paid just a dollar an hour. The women are also required to sleep in the sweatshop in a room with 15 others.
The women, hailing from Bangladesh and Mauritius, claim all of their money goes home to their families they haven’t seen in years.
The shirts sell for £45 – or $70 dollars – in a special partnership with UK’s version of ELLE Magazine.
The shirts have been worn by Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman, all keen to display their feminist credentials – even though the Deputy Prime Minister last night admitted he had ‘no idea’ where the garments were made.
But The Mail on Sunday has toured a factory producing the T-shirts, where workers earn just 6,000 rupees a month – equivalent to £120.
The figure is just a quarter of the country’s average monthly wage, and around half of what a waiter earns. Each ‘feminist’ T-shirt costs just £9 to make, but high street chain Whistles sells them for £45 each – a figure it would take the women a week and a half to earn.
Fayzal Ally Beegun, president of the International Textile, Garment, and Leather Workers Union, told the Daily Mail the women are being treated like slaves at the CMT Spinning Mill. While Managing Director Francois Woo says they conditions are fair, reports paint a different picture of exhausted women struggling to get by.
“The workers in this factory are treated very poorly and the fact that politicians in England are making a statement using these sweatshop T-shirts is appalling,” Beegun said. “It would take a woman working in the factory nearly two weeks just to buy one shirt. What is feminist about that? These women have nothing in this world. They are paid a pittance and any money they do receive they send back home. They work very long hours and have no lives other than their work. They are on four-year contracts that mean they don’t get to see their families in that time. What kind of existence is it when you are sharing your bedroom with 15 other women?”
The factory is able to create 300 shirts for $14 dollars – despite the high price tag in the UK.
The Fawcett Society released a statement after the exposé, claiming they didn’t know the shirts were made in sweatshops. They also plan to launch an investigation of their own into the origins of the t-shirts.
“We have been very disappointed to hear the allegations that conditions in the Mauritius factory may not adhere to the ethical standards that we, as the Fawcett Society, would require of any product that bears our name. At this stage, we require evidence to back up the claims being made by a journalist at the Mail on Sunday. However, as a charity that campaigns on issues of women’s economic equality, we take these allegations extremely seriously and will do our utmost to investigate them.
“If any concrete and verifiable evidence of mistreatment of the garment producers emerges, we will require Whistles to withdraw the range with immediate effect and donate part of the profits to an ethical trading campaigning body.
“Whilst we wish to apologize to all those concerned who may have experienced adverse conditions, we remain confident that we took every practicable and reasonable step to ensure that the range would be ethically produced and await a fuller understanding of the circumstances under which the garments were produced.”
You can read their statement in full here.
SOURCE: Daily Mail | PHOTO CREDIT: Handout