Forida is 22 years old. She lives with her husband, a rice miller, and her toddler son in Kallyanpur, a slum area in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She also supports her mother-in-law, who looks after her son while she is at work.
Forida has hidden her identity with a headscarf, which isn’t common among garment workers in Bangladesh. She has taken a big risk by speaking to us, and has covered her face to protect herself and family.
Forida holds her daily wage. She’s only paid 35 cents an hour. She makes clothes for Target Australia, H&M and other international brands.
It’s less than the minimum wage in Bangladesh, because deductions have been illegally taken from her overtime wage for mistakes and not being able to meet unrealistic targets.
“If we were paid a little more money, then I could one day send my son to school; we could live happily, we could lead a better life.”
Forida and her family have lived in a dark, hot and cramped compound with six other families, including her landlords, for three years. There is just one toilet and place to bathe for the whole compound, and two shared cooking areas. Constructed mostly of tin and wood, her living conditions are crowded and rundown. Forida says, “When it rains, there’s a smell in our home.”
Behind the rental property is a big, black polluted pond, which attracts a consistent influx of mosquitos, especially in Forida’s room — half of which is built over the water. This increases her and her family’s risk of exposure to mosquito-borne viral diseases like malaria, dengue fever and Chikungunya.
Towards the end of each month, Forida’s salary runs out and she just eats “old watery rice, with salt and green chilli”. If she was paid a living wage, Forida could “provide food for the last week of the month [and] eat better food like vegetables and meat”.
Each day, like all garment workers, Forida is given a target that she must complete before she can go home.
The pressure at work is intense. If she makes any mistakes, she is verbally abused by her supervisor. “I feel embarrassed when I am scolded in front of so many people and then I feel bad about myself because I’m not able to do the work properly. If I could do the work properly, then I wouldn’t be scolded so hard and this makes me cry.”
Forida hopes for more realistic targets and a better wage.
“If I got a living wage, I could provide food for the last week of the month, I could eat better food like vegetables and meat."