These were the words running through my head this morning when I heard the awful news of the collapse of a huge building complex in Bangladesh. The eight story concrete building which fell like a house of cards, was home to four garment factories, a bank, and some shops. Nearly 100 people have died and 800 are reported to be injured. Tens of thousands of people have gathered outside; some are workers who were able to escape, others are family members, hoping against hope that their loved ones will make it out alive. Colorful saris have been tied together and are hanging from the edge of the wreckage, where some fortunate ones have been able to slip down to safety. Rescue workers are digging through the rubble, trying desperately to save remaining victims. Many bodies remain between the layers of concrete.
The tragedy is that these lives could have been spared. The previous day, cracks were noticed in the building and reported to officials who visited the building. They advised that it be inspected and warned workers not return to work. Many workers were hesitant to return to work, but were told by one of the factory managers that there was no problem, so they went to work. An hour later the building began its fast collapse.
My thought this morning was “If only there had been alternative employment for these women, in their local areas… they wouldn’t have left their families. They wouldn’t have given their lives so that the developed world can dress our families in the latest ‘affordable’ fashions. What a terrible price to pay! If only they would have had a safe, local production center, they would still have their lives before them. ”
That is what I love about Pebble! There are safe production centers located in more than 50 rural areas, where the women can walk to work and they are treated with dignity and paid a fair wage. In contrast, many women feel forced to leave their families and migrate to the city to work in a garment factory, where they work long, grueling hours in unsafe conditions. They are often harassed and end up living in slum-like conditions, with only a pittance to show for their labor. According to one report, they are paid an average of $.22/hour. That is not a typo. Twenty-two cents. Think about that the next time you find a deal on clothing. Check the label. Think about the lives of the people who made that piece of clothing. Ask yourself if it really is a deal.
There is a story behind everything. That hot steaming cup of coffee. The sugar in the cupboard. The bar of chocolate in the drawer. The clothes in the closet. This computer that I’m writing on. The car in the driveway. We live like kings and queens compared to most of the world. We are so far removed from the origins of most of the “things” that surround us, that we don’t know their stories. Perhaps we really don’t want to know?
Here at Kahiniwalla, we tell stories because they are important. Stories connect us. Sometimes they jar us awake, make us cry and inspire us to change. Stories fill us with hope, like a string of bright saris, tied together and waving in the breeze amid a pile of rubble. Hope that more lives will be saved. Hope that my choices can have an impact on lives around the world. Hope that happy endings are possible.
Take a look around you. There is a story behind everything. And don’t be so quick to think that the final chapter has been written. We can change some of those “if onlys” to a happy endings. We are all writers, you and I, in this story of life,with incredible power for change by the way we live our story and by the choices we make.
Live your story well, with no regret.