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Assessed Sweatshop Geography Task

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In today’s modern society, fashion is as big as ever, but what exactly is fashion? And at what price are we willing to pay to get the latest craze on the high-street? Well don’t worry because we’ve sent some of our top journalists around the globe to experience an adventure and report straight back to you. We’ll find out exactly how far big companies are willing to go to get the clothes the customer wants.

Here are some questions sent in by you readers at home about the research poll in issue 193. We couldn’t print every question so here is the top most popular pieces-

What is fashion?
Fashion is a pattern or trend which is popular for a small period of time. It’ll eventually go out of fashion when a new model or update is released. Manufactures create the product which is then advertised to make it seems desirable/ so people want to buy the product.

Who creates the product?
People who create these products tend to be from less developed countries such; this is because the TNCs( Trans-National Corporations) can get a cheap labour force in these countries than in places such as the Uk or USA. These people in the workforce are being exploited. Exploitation means to use something or someone to gain profit. The law in the workplace is a lot more open in these LEDC’s(Less Economically Developed Countries)for example many of these countries don’t have a minium wage, meaning they gain more profit for themselves, and many of the workers are brought into the workforce illegally meaning they are tied down to serve the needs and demands from the TNCs and can’t gain rights or set up trade unions.

What is a TNC?
TransNational Corporations (TNCs) are enterprises that control economic assets(assets are any item of financial value own by a individual, or in this case a corporation.) in other countries. Examples of TNC in the fashion industry are Living Dead Souls, Flipflops and Fangs, What is globalisation?

Globalisation is a process whereby products, information,wealth,people and ideas move rapidly across the globe, however the movement depends upon modern transport and modern communication.

What are sweatshops?
Sweatshops are factories or workshops were the workers are paid low wages , after working for long hours in poor conditions.

Our favourite question was sent in by Haru Toya, from Glasgow. She ask “what is life like for sweatshop workers?” Well Haru, we sent our journalist,Rima maria, for a month of to Turkey to work in a sweatshop, and keep a dairy. Now we have taken a day extract from the dairy to hopefully answer your question, I hope it does.

15th April-
I arrived in Turkey with only a small suitcase of clothes and 28 Turkish lira( just under £10). I’m staying with a girl ,called Kiyoura, her mother and her 5-year-old brother. Kiyoura’s father died when she was 9, which meant her mother had to go out and Kiyoura had to watch her young brother and complete the housework. However recently Kiyoura’s mother has become very ill, so now Kiyoura goes out to work instead.

16th April 3.45am-
I’m awaken by Kiyoura at the ridiculous time of 3.45am and am told to get dressed. When I am dressed I wonder into the kitchen to see Kiyoura and her brother dressed; Kiyoura is serving up breakfast and her brother is packing the lunches for the three of us. Today is my first day of working in a sweatshop, Kiyoura managed to get me a temporary job in the sweatshop she works in. this means I can get a proper insight into life as a sweatshop worker. 4.00am-

Kiyoura, her brother and I are just leaving the small house were we’re staying. Kiyoura is beginning work at 6.30am but it takes her two hours to get there, also she drops off her brother with a fellow sweatshop workers house, which is near to a local school, so that her brother is safe. The journey is long and tiring, and Kiyoura brother kept stopping because he was so tried.

We arrive at the factory. It wasn’t what I expected. Instead of one huge factory, there was like a courtyard of small buildings with numbers above each door about 10. We go to small building where we place our lunches, then head out to a small open space. When we arrive, there are about 70 workers lined up. We join the end of the line, and a woman came along and register us, she explains the expectations of today and what we shall be manufacturing then blows a whistle, causing the workers to scatter into different buildings.

Kiyoura takes me into a building labelled number 8. The room had one tiny window in the corner of one of the walls, but there was no natural light shining into the room. There was one overhead light, but it released minimum light. The room was light as if it was dusk, but outside it was brood daylight. There was a few small desks; on each desk was a small box of threads and a sewing machine, all of them looked knackered,and beside the desks was a box where the women put the finished items . And in the middle of the room laid 3 heaps of material and one completed tee. The woman(including myself) all picked up each material and sat at a desk. All the other women begin working, but it took me sometime to work out the design. Once I had I began to work.

12.30pm –
We finally get a break because it’s lunchtime. My hand hurt and so far I have made about 50 t-shirts. The other women( including Kiyoura) have all made about 100. We grab our lunches and sit outside. We only have a 30 minute break so I decided to talk to Kiyoura. “Do you like working here, Kiyoura?” Kiyoura looked around to make sure no one was there before saying, “ I hate working in this place. My arms ache and we have little breaks. And my eyes hurt from the low lighting.” I thought about it then asked “ so why do you continue working here then?” Kiyoura replied “If I didn’t go out to work my family would starve. My mother is now to sick to work and my brother is too young. My job is the only wage which comes into that household.” Then another question popped into my head “ Kiyoura, if you only have one wage in your house who pays for your brother to go to school?” “ I pay for my brother to go to school. I think that it is important for him to get a proper education, so that he can become whatever he wants to in life, and not waste he life like I have with mine.” And then the whistle when to inform the ladies that lunch was over.

We are back in the workshop, which is beginning to smell a bit. The room was seemed more stuffy than what it did before and there was little bits of fluff everywhere. We have to continue working for another 4 solid hours.

We are just finishing for the day. In total I managed to make 157 t-shirts, but Kiyoura and the others produce about 230 each. The minimum amount of shirts the ladies are allowed to make are 150, if they fail to meet this target then they are fired. We collect our belongings and Kiyoura’s younger brother and set off on the long journey home.

We have arrived back home and I am exhausted. I have written up my diary, had dinner and helped with some housework. 8.15pm-
so tired I am off to bed. Night. Now that we have looked at the harsh lifestyle of Kiyoura and her family, we are now going to talk to some other groups of people linked with sweatshop workers. SCREEMO magazine set up an interview, to get an insight of the different points of view. And here is a small extract from the interview –

Hello and welcome to teen magazine, SCREAMO, human rights interview NO# 34- sweatshop workers. Today I’ll be talking to Rukia, a member of the workers trade union, Yuki, a British resident who has been protesting outside Superdrys’ HQ and Mai, a representative of . Dead Treads

Question 1- What do you think life is like for the factory workers?

Rukia- Many of there workers are single, young women between the ages of 15-25. They work long hours and some need to walk over 5 miles to get to the factories.

Yuki- The way of live, that these young women lead is completely different from the lives of teens living here in the UK. Their working hours for these women are way too long; it takes up most of the majority of the day. If the working day was shorter then they women could go to evening or night classes, and gain some education.

Mai- At school the girls may gain and education, but an education or school doesn’t give these girls a wage to pay the bills! When they work in our factories, these girls learn basic, key skills which they can apply in different scenarios. They also have a wage allowing them to keep a permanent roof over their heads and they support their family.

Question 2- What do you think about the conditions in sweatshops?

Rukia- The conditions in many sweatshops are awful. The factories are noisy and dusty yet the employees aren’t given earplugs or mouth masks. They have to work long hours with very little breaks. Also there is very little space in many sweatshops and they lighting in some is unsatisfactory.

Mai- Although in the past their was some issues on the conditions in some of our factories,Dead Treads have addressed the problem and are currently doing all in our power to set things right.

Question 3- who is to blame? And why?

Yuki- The TNC’s are to blame. They have the power to set things right if they want to. They also could change the supplier if they weren’t 100% satisfied.

Mai- The sweatshops’ owners are to blame. They control the factories and there conditions although we have a small say on what the conditions should be like there is no guarantee that the factories owner will consider our view or change there factories conditions.

Rukia- The blame of these awful conditions can’t be associated with just one group. The TNC’s and factory owners have their part to play as they have the power. However the workers aren’t standing up for their rights, mainly as they fear losing their jobs, but if more workers were to rebel and fight for the changes in their factories, then there voices would be heard, not as individuals but as one, united workforce.

Question 4-How can these conditions be improved?

Mai- these conditions can’t be changed over night, however Dead Tread has set up a 5 year plan to undergo changes such as- Factories must provide a safe working space for all members of the workforce. The correct lighting must be installed in all factories.

Factories must provide correct uniform for all workers, this includes mouth masks and ear plugs. Failure to meet these regulations will lead to consequences and in major cases may lead to withdrawing further trade.

These are a few pointer of the new criteria which Dead Treads will introduce in the next few years.  Yuki- if wages were improved then these conditions would drasticy improve. For example the workers which need to walk miles to get to work, could get a bus instead, and they could get a nutritious meal, this way they would be more stronger and less tried allowing them to complete their work to a higher standard.

Rukia- A number of points need to be considered on the changes of conditions. The point Mai and Yuki have suggested are key and I have nothing more to add other than… Each factory’s conditions will be different however the worsted factors should be addressed first.

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