Local nun is imploring people not to boycott Bangladesh
MORE than 1000 workers were killed in a Bangladesh factory in April this year, but a local nun is imploring people not to boycott the country in protest.
"Because 80% of export earnings for Bangladesh come from the garment factory," Sister Jenny Clarke said.
"It's a huge industry. Bangladesh is only second to China in the production of garments."
Jenny is currently placed in Gladstone as she waits for her next Bangladeshi visa.
She explains her reason for choosing the life of a nun.
So the only way the garment factory owners can make any profit is from volume.
"I was working in England (as a doctor) and I said 'I don't care where I go next as long as it is sunny'," she said.
"When I got to Jamaica, it was my first experience of real poverty and that led to a whole lot of soul searching and once again I felt that this is what I was called to do, to address poverty.
"I looked at the possibility of just dedicating my life in that way.
"But I thought 'no, I really need to have a spiritual basis to what I'm doing and I need to feel supported with that'.
"And for me that choice was the religious life."
Jenny has since lived in Bangladesh, where she worked from 1980 to 2004.
Woolworths, Coles, Target, Kmart, Myer and David Jones all import goods from Bangladesh.
The country is home to about 150 million.
Australia has just 22 million and while Bangladesh conditions are not tolerated here, Jenny said its booming garment production industry has been a boon to women.
"It has really turned the lives around for many young women. Bangladesh has had a big push on girls' education," she said.
"When the garment factories insisted girls had to have literacy and numeracy before they could get in, parents started sending their girls to school. So having girls in the garment factory has also delayed the age of marriage."
The problem is not the fact we buy from a poorer country, it's our expectations.
"These big companies are still insisting on buying product from the garment factory at the price they paid five or seven years ago," Jenny said.
"So the only way the garment factory owners can make any profit is from volume.
"If you only make 29c for a thousand, how many thousands do you have to produce?"
This, Jenny said, was the cause that led the workers to being in the factory the day it collapsed.
"There were cracks the day before, the building was condemned but managers insisted workers went back the next day," Jenny said.
"If they don't get clothes out by a certain deadline, then they lose the contract."
The only way of making a difference, is consumers voting with their buying habits and companies not pushing for bottom dollar.
"The big companies, they're actually driving this, all their little slogans about saving you this amount of money," Jenny said.
"What we need to make sure, as consumers, is that we do our part by paying a reasonable amount for what we use what we take."